Canada Agrees to Buy 88 F-35 Stealth Fighters: Canada has become the latest NATO member to officially adopt the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.
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On Monday, Ottawa finalized a deal worth a reported C$19 billion ($14.2 billion U.S.) with the aerospace and defense giant and will procure eighty-eight of the advanced fifth-generation stealth aircraft.
The first F-35s will land in Canada in 2026, while the entire fleet is expected to be fully operational between 2032 and 2034.
F-35 Comes to Canada
The F-35 will replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s aging fleet of CF-18 aircraft, the variant of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet that was produced between 1982 and 1988. A total of 138 CF-18s were manufactured.
Canadian officials said the deal, struck with the Pentagon, provided the country with the best jet fighter to meet its obligations to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Canada is our friend and a close ally. Their decision to procure almost 90 jets underscores the value of the incredible F-35 Lightning II,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, program executive officer, F-35 Joint Program Office. “The F-35 is the best in the world, providing unmatched interoperability to America, Canada and the additional 15 nations that have selected the fighter. It is a global game-changer. Through power-projection, the F-35 is at the tip of the spear for deterrence. Its forward presence will continue to ensure that potential adversaries choose diplomacy over armed conflict.”
Ukraine War Creates Need for F-35
Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand told reporters via an online briefing on Monday that the purchase is the RCAF’s largest fleet investment in the last three decades but was necessitated following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February as well as China’s “increasingly assertive behavior in the Indo-Pacific.”
She added, “The F-35 is a modern, reliable and agile fighter aircraft used by our closest allies in missions across the globe. It is the most advanced fighter on the market, and it is the right aircraft for our country.”
Canada has already procured Australian F/A-18 fighters to supplement its CF-18s until the F-35s enter service.
Last of the Original Partners
With this deal, Canada will now become the last of the F-35 program’s original eight partners to acquire the fifth-generation fighter, CNN reported.
“In today’s complex global environment, Canada requires a military that is flexible, agile and capable of responding to a variety of unforeseen situations,” Anand explained. “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.”
NORAD – the North American Aerospace Defense Command – is the joint U.S.-Canadian command that provides air and missile defense for North America.
“Canada requires a fighter fleet to protect the sovereignty of one of the largest expanses of airspace in the world,” said Anand.
The total price tag for the F-35s covers the construction at two airbases – one in Alberta and another in Quebec – along with associated equipment and services. The program is also expected to generate 3,300 jobs annually over the next 25 years and contribute $310 million ($425 million Canadian) annually to the country’s gross domestic product.
Ottawa is set to purchase the F-35A model, which will replace those aging CF-18s. As one of the original members of the international F-35 program, Canadian industry has already seen some $2.8 billion in contracts related to the production of the Lightning II.
Lockheed Martin Closing Deals
Germany, Switzerland, and Finland made deals for the Lightning II last year, while NATO allies Greece and the Czech Republic also announced requests to buy the stealth fighters.
The F-35 is currently operated by the United States Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps; and is in service or soon to be in the fleets of Australia, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Poland, Belgium, and Singapore.
The stealth fighter is produced in three variants, the standard F-35A, the short-take-off and vertical landing F-35B, and the aircraft carrier version, the F-35C.
“We are honored the Government of Canada has selected the F-35, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian defense industry to deliver and sustain the aircraft,” said Bridget Lauderdale, vice president and general manager for Lockheed’s F-35 program, via a statement. “The selection of [the] F-35 strengthens allied airpower in Canada, North America and around the world.”
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.