Canada announced plans on Monday to buy 88 US-made F-35 stealth fighter jets to replace its aging fleet, with deliveries to start as early as 2025.
The F-35 “has proven to be a mature, capable and interoperable aircraft and that is why we are moving to the finalization phase of this procurement,” Defense Minister Anita Anand told a joint news conference with Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi.
“Canada has one of the greatest air spaces in the world and we have to make sure that our next fleet of fighter jets is flexible, agile and able to meet a wide spectrum of threats,” she said.
Top bidder Lockheed Martin beat out Saab’s Gripen, after Boeing’s Superhornet was excluded from the running, and an Airbus-led consortium and France’s Dassault Aviation withdrew their Typhoon and Rafale fighters, respectively, from the competition.
Ottawa had earmarked Can$19 billion (US$15 billion) for the purchase, and Tassi said negotiations with Lockheed Martin would now proceed to finalize the contract within the next seven months.
She said she expects “delivery of the aircraft as early as 2025.”
Canada spent two decades helping to develop the stealth fighter with the United States and its allies, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he swept to power in 2015 cancelled a previous contract to buy the F-35, calling it too expensive.
The investment in the military, according to a government statement on Monday, will be the most significant in more than 30 years.
The new aircraft’s central role will be to patrol North American air space with the US Air Force under NORAD.