Canada is buying 88 F-35 stealth fighter jets in a $14.2 billion deal announced Monday by the Ottawa government.
The first of the US-made planes are expected to enter the Royal Canadian Air Force in 2026 with the full fleet being operational by 2033 or 2034, a Canadian government news release said.
With the deal, Canada becomes the last of the F-35 program’s original eight partners to acquire the fifth-generation fighter, regarded as one of the best fighter jets in the world.
“In today’s complex global environment, Canada requires a military that is flexible, agile and capable of responding to a variety of unforeseen situations,” Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said in a statement.
“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,” the statement said.
NORAD is a joint US-Canadian command that provides air and missile defense for North America.
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin has seen a rush of interest in the F-35 over the past year, especially since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Besides the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, F-35s are also in or soon to be part of the fleets of Australia, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Poland, Belgium and Singapore.
The jets come in three versions, the standard F-35A, the short-take off and vertical landing F-35B, and the aircraft carrier version, the F-35C.
Canada will buy the F-35A model to replace its aging CF-18s.
“Canada requires a fighter fleet to protect the sovereignty of one of the largest expanses of airspace in the world” – the country’s vast Arctic frontier – Anand said.
To that end, the $14.2 billion (19 billion Canadian dollars) price tag includes construction at two air bases in Alberta and Quebec, and associated equipment and services, the government said.
The announcement said the program is expected to generate 3,300 jobs annually over 25 years and contribute $310 million ($425 million Canadian) annually to the country’s gross domestic product.
As an original member of the F-35 program, Canadian industry has seen $2.8 billion in contracts to date related to the construction of the fighter jet, the government said.