OTTAWA – Canada’s defence minister announced Monday a planned purchase of 88 F-35 fighter jets to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s fleet of aging CF-18s.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Anita Anand said Canada’s investment is estimated at $19 billion, the largest in 30 years.
“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,” said Anand.
Anand said Canada will initially purchase 16 jets, eventually buying an additional 72 in subsequent years to bring the total size of the fighter-jet fleet to 88.
Officials told reporters the cost of purchasing and operating the F-35s over the next 40 years, including the building of hangars and other facilities, would reach about $70 billion.
They added Canada would pay about US$85 million per plane.
Anand said the first four jets, expected by 2026, will be delivered to American military bases, where Air Force pilots and technicians will train as Canada prepares the necessary facilities.
The first set of F-35s will physically arrive in Canada no earlier than 2029.
“I’m confident after this open and fair, competitive process that the benefits to our country in terms of national security, as well as … economic security, are going to persist and are present,” said Anand.
Canada’s military currently flies the CF-18 fighter jet, produced between 1982 and 1988. By 2032, they will have been in service for 50 years.
Ottawa will be forced to spend more than $1 billion to keep the CF-18 fleet to keep them flying until all 88 of the F-35s are delivered to Canada by 2034 at the latest.