(Ottawa) We’ve been talking about it for more than 10 years now, but this time, the project really seems to be taking off: the Canadian government is buying 88 F-35 stealth planes. Starting cost: 19 billion. First delivery: four aircraft in 2026.
The Trudeau government has planned $19 billion to acquire these fighter aircraft, whose unit value is estimated at nearly $114 million, to replace the old CF-18 fleet. But in total, by calculating a life cycle of 30 years for these devices, the bill should climb to some 70 billion.
This amount includes related equipment and materials, maintenance services and the establishment of a training program. Deliveries are expected to begin in 2026, and the fleet is expected to reach full operational capability between 2032 and 2034, according to the Canadian government.
The acquisition of these fighters, for which several allies of Canada have also opted, takes on an even more special significance in the context of the current geopolitical upheavals, indicated the Minister of National Defense, Anita Anand, at a press conference on Monday.
“It’s the right plane arriving at the right time, at the best price for Canadians,” she said, praising the “modern, reliable and agile” nature of the planes that will allow Canada to “meet its obligations” domestically and internationally, as a member of NATO and NORAD.
The military bases in Bagotville, Quebec, and Cold Lake, Alberta, will be adapted accordingly. This agreement has the potential to secure nearly 3,300 jobs per year for Canadian industry over 25 years, directly and indirectly, according to the government.
years of waiting
This announcement marks the end of a process that was set in motion under the former government of Stephen Harper, and that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals had promised to scrap in 2015 before changing their tune .
Costs soared while the project was in limbo. In a report published in 2012, the Auditor General established the price to be paid for 65 F-35 aircraft at $25 billion. And that’s not to mention that since then, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent by the federal government to keep the CF-18 fleet in the air.
Minister Anand, however, assured that the “very complex” acquisition process had been competitive. She also pleaded that the years that have passed have also allowed the devices to evolve and “become more efficient”.
Too late, too expensive, too opaque: the opposition parties attacked the Liberal government in unison on Monday.
“Justin Trudeau said he would NEVER buy the F-35. He then wasted years and taxpayers’ money buying rusty Australian CF-18s, only to find the Tories’ plan was the right one all along,” said Tory MP James Bezan.
In the New Democratic Party, MP Randall Garrison dwelt on the bill for the operation, arguing that the government was “not interested in getting the best value possible” and that it was “bringing Canadians the weight of his bad decisions.
His Bloc colleague Christine Normandin expressed concerns about possible cost overruns, when “we know that it is quite common”. She also argued that the 425 million in economic benefits mentioned by the government were not up to par.
The device you need
Overlooking the partisan contest, postdoctoral researcher at the Center for International and Defense Policy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Thomas Hughes, comes to the conclusion that Ottawa has bet on the right horse by concluding the agreement with the government of United States and Lockheed Martin/Pratt & Whitney.
“Could Canada have gotten something of this good quality at a lower price? I would say no. You have to make a distinction between cost and value. Here, the value allows Canada to achieve its defense objectives,” he argues.
The stealth of these devices is a “fantastic platform for countering very technologically advanced adversaries”, he concludes. Currently, there are more than 890 F-35 aircraft in service at 26 bases around the world, according to Lockheed Martin.
- Mach 1.6 (550 m/s)
- Maximum speed of F-35 stealth aircraft.
Source: GOVERNMENT OF CANADA
- Ability to fly non-stop F-35s.
Source: GOVERNMENT OF CANADA