The Canadian government announced on 9 January that it is procuring Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II aircraft as a result of the Future Fighter Capability Project competition. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) will receive 88 F-35A multirole stealth fighters, a sustainment solution tailored to Canadian requirements and a comprehensive training program.
The project is worth an estimated $19 billion canadian ($14 billion USD), which includes associated equipment, sustainment set-up and services, as well as the construction of fighter squadron facilities in Bagotville and Cold Lake. This is the largest investment in the RCAF in the past three decades.
The deliveries of the fifth generation fighters are planned to commence in 2026 with the delivery of the first four aircraft. Full Operational Capability of the fleet is expected to be achieved between 2032 and 2034.
Anita Anand, Canada’s Minister of National Defense, said:
“In today’s complex global environment, Canada requires a military that is flexible, agile and capable of responding to a variety of unforeseen situations. We are committed to ensuring that our current and future aviators have the most advanced equipment possible to do just that. Canada requires a fighter fleet to contribute to the safety and security of Canadians and protect the sovereignty of one of the largest expanses of airspace in the world. We are thrilled to announce today that Canada has selected the F-35 as the fighter aircraft that will fill this important role.”
The Future Fighter Capability Project competition was launched in December 2017 with 88 fighters planned to be acquired to replace CF-18s used by RCAF. As an interim measure, Australian F-18 aircraft were purchased. Formal requests for proposals were released in July 2019 to Saab, Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
In December 2021, Canada confirmed that Boeing’s Super Hornet was no longer in contention. In March 2022, it was confirmed that Canada had selected the F-35A as the suitable replacement for the CF-18.
Canadian industry has already obtained significant work worth $2.8 billion (USD) related to the F-35 program. The RCAF acquisition has the potential to contribute over $425 million annually to the economy and close to 3,300 jobs annually for Canadian industry over a 25 year period.