CANADA has finalised an agreement with the United States and weapons maker Lockheed Martin to purchase 88 F-35 fighter jets, the government announced, as it seeks to upgrade the country’s ageing fleet.
During a news conference on Monday, Defence Minister Anita Anand said the $14.2bn ($19bn Canadian) deal marked the largest investment in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 30 years.
As our world grows darker, with Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine and China’s increasingly assertive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific, this project has taken on heightened significance, especially given the importance of interoperability with our allies,” Anand said.
The announcement comes as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to meet with US President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at a “Three Amigos” summit in Mexico City this week.
Canada, which has a close defence relationship with the US, has been trying for more than a decade to replace its fleet of aging Boeing CF-18 fighters, some of which are more than 40 years old.
The first four F-35 aircraft are anticipated to be delivered in 2026 with full operational capacity for the fleet expected between 2032 and 2034.
The project’s $14.2bn ($19bn Canadian) budget includes the cost of infrastructure setup, weapons and other related expenses in addition to the price of planes, which are estimated at about $85m ($114m Canadian) each.
The full life cycle of the programme is expected to cost $52bn ($70bn Canadian), however, which has drawn some criticism and questions in Canada.