Canada Finalizes Agreement To Acquire 88 F-35s


F-35 Canada
File photo of an F-35A (Lockheed Martin)

As part of the largest investment in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 30 years, Canada is purchasing the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II.

On Jan. 9, 2023, Canada announced the finalisation of an agreement with the United States (US) government and Lockheed Martin with Pratt & Whitney for the acquisition of F-35 fighter jets for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The selection of the F-35 5th generation aircraft as part of the Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP) Canada to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s fleet of legacy CF-188 Hornets (local designation of the F/A-18) had been announced in March 2022.

“This is the largest investment in the RCAF in the past 30 years. The estimated investment for this project is $19 billion, which includes associated equipment, sustainment set-up and services, as well as the construction of Fighter Squadron Facilities in Bagotville and Cold Lake,” says the public statement released by the Government of Canada.

“As the rules-based international order is challenged around the world, the F-35 will be essential for protecting Canadians, enhancing Arctic security and national sovereignty, and enabling Canada to meet its NATO, NORAD and other obligations well into the future. The Government of Canada will continue to do whatever it takes to protect Canadians and make continued, significant investments to give the members of our Canadian Armed Forces the equipment that they need to do their jobs.”

The first deliveries of these aircraft are anticipated to begin in 2026, with a Full Operational Capability with the entire fleet expected between 2032 and 2034.

“Today’s announcement is also excellent news for Canadian businesses and workers in the Canadian aerospace and defence sector. The acquisition and initial sustainment of the F-35 project has the potential to contribute over $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 substantial investments made in National Defence 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.”

As explained in a previous story of the Canadian F-35 program, the Government of Canada launched an “open and transparent competitive process” to acquire new fighter jets in 2017. A formal request for proposals was released to eligible suppliers in July 2019. It closed in July 2020. Dassault and Airbus decided to withdraw their Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon proposals in 2018 and 2019, respectively, saying that the requirements favored the US bids. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Saab, proposing the Super Hornet Block III, the F-35A Lightning II and the Gripen E respectively, were asked to show how their bids could meet not only the military requirements of the RCAF for missions both at home and abroad, but also provide benefits for the national industry.

In November 2021, it was announced that the replacement proposal based on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, one of the favorite bids considered that the RCAF already operates the “legacy” version of the Hornet, was rejected as it did not meet the federal government’s requirements. Between the two remaining contenders, Lockheed Martin and Saab, Canada eventually chose the F-35.

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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

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