Total program costs are expected to be around $70 billion
OTTAWA — The government of Canada has finalized its deal to purchase 88 F-35A fighter jets to replace its fleet of outdated CF-18 Hornets.
Defence Minister Anita Anand announced the deal Monday morning, calling the F-35 “the right aircraft” for Canada.
“As our world grows darker, with Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine, and China’s increasingly assertive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific, this project has taken on heightened significance, especially given the importance of interoperability with our allies,” Anand told the press conference.
News of the deal comes about eight months after the government confirmed it was moving ahead with purchasing the stealth fighters produced by Lockheed-Martin — and seven years after the Trudeau Liberals vowed never to buy them.
The RCAF expects to take delivery of the first four aircraft in 2026 — one year later than what was promised earlier this year.
“This investment is estimated at $19 billion, making it the largest investment in our Royal Canadian Air Force in 30 years,” she said.
Total program costs are expected to be around $70 billion.
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“The F-35 is a modern, reliable and agile fighter aircraft used by our closest allies in missions across the globe,” she said.
“It is the most advanced fighter on the market, and it’s the right aircraft for our country.”
Canada, she said, will purchase the jet in tranches, starting with an initial batch of 16 aircraft.
The RCAF is expected to take delivery of the order’s first four jets in 2026, followed by an additional delivery of six per year over the subsequent two years.
Canada’s last CF-18 jet is expected to be taken out of service by the end of 2032, enabling what Anand described as a “smooth transition” between the two aircraft.
Canada first signed onto the U.S.-led Joint Strike Fighter program by then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in 1997.
Peter MacKay, the Conservative defence minister in 2010, announced Canada was entering into an untendered $9-billion deal to purchase 65 F-35s, with delivery expected in 2016.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau campaigned a “no F-35” position during the 2015 federal election, clearly stating in the Liberals’ published election platform that a Trudeau government would ditch the jet.
“The Conservative government never actually justified or explained why they felt Canada needed a fifth-generation fighter,” Trudeau said in 2015.
“They just talked about it like it was obvious. It was obvious, as we saw through the entire process, that they were particularly, and some might say unreasonably or unhealthily, attached to the F-35 aircraft.”
The new jets will be based out of existing fighter facilities at 3 Wing Bagotville in Quebec and 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta., with contracts awarded several years ago to outfit both airbases with new hangars and support equipment.
In 2021, the government pared down the list of fighter jet contenders to the F-35 and Saab’s Gripen multi-role fighters.
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