The Canadian government has committed to the acquisition of 65 F-35A JSFs to replace its CF-18 Hornet fighters in service.
The commitment comes at an expected cost of C$9bn (A$9.81bn) including spares, basing infrastructure, and training systems and materiel. Additional funding will be required to buy into a sustainment program for the aircraft.
The Canadian opposition criticised the decision to go with the F-35 on a sole source basis rather than holding a competition for the capability, and said it would rescind the decision if it wins power ahead of an expected contract signature for the aircraft in 2013. “A future Liberal government will put on hold this … contract,” Liberal industry spokesman Marc Garneau told media. “Competition guarantees the best value for Canadians.”
But the Harper Government countered the criticism, saying the decision to join the JSF partnership in 2002 was made by the now opposition, and that a cancellation would be hypocrisy. “Contrary to Liberal myths, this was a competitive process,” said a Defence department spokesman. “Canada participated in an extensive and rigorous competitive process where two bidders developed and competed prototype aircraft. Participation in the JSF program has allowed the Department of National Defence and Canadian industry to be part of a cutting-edge international military program.”
The move is a setback to Boeing which had hoped to place its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in service with Canada. The first Canadian F-35s are expected to enter service from 2016.