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Canada finalizes deal for 88 F-35A fighters

Canada buying 88 F-35A
Illustration: US Air Force photo of F-35s at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson during exercise Northern Edge 2021.

After selecting the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as its future fighter aircraft in March 2022, the Canadian government has now finalized a deal for the procurement of 88 airframes from Lockheed Martin.

Canada expects to receive first aircraft in 2026, with a full operational capability milestone for the entire fleet set for between 2032 and 2034.

The estimated investment for this project is C$19 billion (US$14.2B) and represents the largest investment in the RCAF in the past 30 years. It includes associated equipment, sustainment set-up and services, as well as the construction of fighter squadron facilities in Bagotville in Quebec, and Cold Lake, Alberta.

“In today’s complex global environment, Canada requires a military that is flexible, agile and capable of responding to a variety of unforeseen situations. We are committed to ensuring that our current and future aviators have the most advanced equipment possible to do just that. Canada requires a fighter fleet to contribute to the safety and security of Canadians and protect the sovereignty of one of the largest expanses of airspace in the world. We are thrilled to announce today that Canada has selected the F-35 as the fighter aircraft that will fill this important role,” Anita Anand, Canada’s Minister of National Defence, said.

The Canadian government said the contract announcement was “also excellent news for Canadian businesses and workers in the Canadian aerospace and defense sector.”

The acquisition and initial sustainment of the F-35 project has the potential to contribute over C$425 million annually to Canada’s gross domestic product and close to 3,300 jobs annually for Canadian industry and value chain partners over a 25-year period (direct and indirect). In addition, there will be investments made in national defense infrastructure renewal at various bases across Canada that will include many Canadian construction and site maintenance companies. Canadian industry will also have significant sustainment opportunities related to the Canadian fleet. Opportunities are expected in areas such as airframe and engine depots, as well as in training and in maintenance of components over the life of the fleet.

Canada is buying the F-35 after launching the tendering process to acquire a successor for the CF-18 Hornet fighter fleet in 2017. A formal request for proposals was released to eligible suppliers in July 2019, and closed in July 2020.

It is worth noting that Canada is already an international partner in the F-35 program, alongside the US, UK, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, and Denmark. Canada has been investing in the Joint Strike Fighter program since 1997, which has provided Canadian industry with the opportunity to become a part of the F-35 supply chain, in addition to securing guaranteed access to the F-35.