Canada has selected the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as its next combat aircraft, Peter MacKay, the country’s defense minister, announced last Friday. The $9 billion commitment covers 65 JSFs. The first is due for delivery in 2016 to begin replacement of the CF-18 Hornet fleet. The commitment does not include ongoing training and support, which is estimated at a further $7 billion. A firm order is thought to be some time away, and it is possible that it may not survive Canada’s next election, which is set for October 2012 but may come earlier.
Despite Canada being a partner in the JSF industrial program, other fighter manufacturers have identified it as a potential sales opportunity, but the announcement has dashed any such hopes, at least for now. The JSF decision has drawn criticism from some quarters in Canada, who argue that other types could have been procured at less cost. However, MacKay said that the JSF had been chosen because it is the only aircraft to meet Canada’s needs and because of the industrial participation angle.
“The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the best aircraft we can provide our men and women in uniform to face and defeat the challenges of the 21st century,” MacKay said. “This multi-role stealth fighter will help the Canadian Forces defend the sovereignty of Canadian airspace, remain a strong and reliable partner in the defense of North America and provide Canada with an effective and modern capability for international operations.”
Canada has been an active member of the JSF team since 1997, when it invested $10 million in the concept definition phase. In 2002 it became a partner with a $150 million contribution to the system design and development phase, allowing Canadian contractors access to the industrial program.