The façade is over; Canada signs the dotted line for 88 F-35A combat jets

The only fighters that participated in the tender were the F-35A and the Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen NG.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The Canadian government made the announcement that it has signed a contract with the United States government, Lockheed Martin, and Pratt & Whitney on January 9, 2023, with the intention of purchasing 88 fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighters for the Canadian Air Force. Deliveries of the F-35A aircraft are scheduled to commence in 2026, and it is predicted that the Canadian Air Force will begin receiving the aircraft and become fully operational with them between the years 2032 and 2034.

By way of the American intergovernmental international military sales programme, Foreign Military Sales (FMS), Canada was able to reach an agreement and complete the transaction. The government of Canada estimates that the total cost of the programme to purchase 88 F-35A aircraft (which will be designated CF-35A in Canada), including weapons, related equipment, spare parts, technical support and training, and the construction of infrastructure, will be 19 billion Canadian dollars (approximately $14.2 billion). 

On March 28, 2022, the Canadian government announced the selection of the American F-35A fighter in the Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP) tender to purchase 88 fighters to replace the Boeing CF-18 Hornet (CF-188A/B, F/A-18A/B).

The drawn-out and entirely foreseeable drama surrounding the selection of F-35 jets by Canada has finally come to an end. It was important to keep in mind that beginning in 1997, Canada has participated as a “third-level” international partner in the programme for the construction of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF – the future F-35), contributing a total of $613 million over the course of 24 years. The previous Conservative government of Canada said in 2010 that it intended to replace the CF-18 fighter with a minimum of 65 F-35As, with the delivery of the new aircraft set to begin in 2016. On the other hand, in Canada, the same proposals were met with tremendous opposition due to political and budgetary concerns. In 2011, the government of Canada came to the conclusion that it would no longer purchase the F-35A without first holding an open and public bidding for the aircraft.

In 2017, the Trudeau government requested proposals (RFP) under the FFCP programme. However, the Canadian RFP was considered fictitious from the outset, as the selection of the F-35A had already been predetermined, with government circles and the Canadian Air Force leadership voicing support for this aircraft. In 2018, a preliminary version of the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the FFCP was posted, followed by a final version in July 2019. After the release of the RFP, the French company Dassault Aviation withdrew its proposal for the Rafale fighter, and after the release of the final version of the RFP, the British company BAE Systems Corporation withdrew its proposal for the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter. Both of these withdrawals occurred after the RFP was made public. These two manufacturers have accused the RFP’s authors of direct participation and a plain adaptation of the criteria for the F-35A aircraft.

After that, the only fighters that participated in the FFCP tender were the F-35A, the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and the Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen NG. On December 1, 2021, it was reported that the aircraft that would be on the shortlist for the tender would be the F-35A and the JAS-39E/F Gripen NG. At this point, the outcome of the competition was already decided. At the same time, Canada did not put competing aircraft through head-to-head tests with one another.

The Canadian Air Force now has 93 CF-18A / B Hornet (F / A-18A / B) fighters, 18 of which are former Australian F / A-18A / B aircraft purchased after being decommissioned by the Australian Air Force and delivered to Canada in 2019-2021. The Canadian Air Force received 138 CF-18 fighters (98 single and 40 double) between 1982 and 1988; however, only 75 of the original aircraft remain in service today (20 aircraft were lost in flight accidents, and 43 were written off due to resource or due to “cannibalization” for parts). There are now five tactical squadrons that are part of the Canadian Air Force’s 3rd (Bagotville Air Base) and 4th (Cold Lake Air Base) Wings. This number includes a combat training squadron that is made up of CF-18A/B aircraft.

In addition to Turkey, which was not included in the delivery schedule, Canada became the sixteenth country to purchase a fighter jet from the F-35 production line. As of January 9, 2023, Lockheed Martin said that more than 890 F-35s were flying missions for a total of ten different countries, including the United States.


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