Ottawa has launched negotiations to purchase F-35s | The CF-18’s replacement legend is coming to an end

(Ottawa) It took nearly seven years for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to come to the same conclusion as Stephen Harper’s former Conservative government: The F-35 fighter jet is the best option to replace the aging CF fleet. 18.

Posted at 11:35 am
Updated at 2:27 pm

Joel-Denis Bellavance

Joel-Denis Bellavance
The Press

The Trudeau government announced Monday that it will begin final negotiations this week to buy 88 F-35 stealth fighter jets from American company Lockheed Martin. The CF-18 replacement saga will therefore soon close as Canada is once again under pressure to increase military spending as the war in Ukraine continues to rage and NATO countries are reviewing their strategy. face of Russian aggression.

If the negotiations are successful, Canada should receive the first aircraft by 2025, said Minister of Public Services and Procurement Filomena Tassi. Ottawa has allocated $ 19 billion for this contract, the largest in 30 years for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The final devices should be delivered in 2032.

If negotiations break down, Canada could always turn to the second option, according to analysis conducted by mandarins in Ottawa, similar to Gripen from Swedish company Saab. Behind the scenes, optimism reigns to conclude a formal deal with Lockheed Martin by the end of the year, especially since Canada has been participating in the ultra-sophisticated device development program for nearly two decades.

Canada has in fact contributed US $ 613 million to the development of the F-35 since 1997. Another contribution of several million dollars will be paid in the coming weeks. The United States and many other Canadian allies are already using this stealth aircraft.

broken promise

In the 2015 federal election, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals vowed never to buy F-35 planes that were in the sight of Stephen Harper’s government and would launch a new call for tenders. At the time, Canada was planning to buy 65 stealth aircraft.

Expecting criticism, Minister Tassi affirmed that the Trudeau government’s goal is first and foremost to ensure that this costly contract is awarded to the company that offers the best offer, at the best value, while guaranteeing the maximum benefit. in the economy for the country.

He dismissed the idea that the contract was delayed for electoral reasons, though the Trudeau government’s approach would undoubtedly lead to the same choice as the former Conservative government did.

“In 2016, we want negotiations to take place so that all bidders can give their best proposal. We are pleased to announce that we are moving into the graduation stage. This is not the last step. There is a stage of signing contracts, but it is an important stage, ”Minister Tassi said.


PHOTO SEAN KILPATRICK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Filomena Tassi, Minister of Public Services and Procurement

We did not compromise at any stage because the process was very important. We want to have the best proposal with the best costs and the best benefits for Canadians.

Filomena Tassi, Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Since officially launching the tender, the F-35 has been considered a favorite by some experts.

Also present at the press conference, Defense Minister Anita Anand insisted that the war in Ukraine did not influence the Trudeau government’s decision to immediately launch negotiations with Lockheed Martin.

“A new fleet of modern fighter jets is essential for Canada’s security, sovereignty and self -defense capability. This new fleet will ensure our ability to protect Canadian space, meet our commitments to our NATO allies and deal with unexpected threats, ”Minister Anand said.

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said the invasion of Ukraine was a game-changer. “Today’s decision comes at a good time. Why? Because we know that on February 24, things changed, and not only did things change, but Canada should better equip its Canadian Armed Forces, ”she argued.

Waste of time and money

The ministers ’arguments that the exercise was justified to get the best price, even if the choice of aircraft to replace the old CF-18s remain the same, were not convincing to the Conservative Party. MP Pierre Paul-Hus, a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve, argued that the Liberals were “wasting taxpayers’ time and money ”to save face.


PHOTO ADRIAN WYLD, THE CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES

Pierre Paul-Hus, Conservative MP for Charlesbourg – Haute-Saint-Charles

Initially, the Conservatives were firm in urging the government to quickly replace the CF-18 fighter jet. This announcement lacks the commitment and clarity that Canadians expect from their federal government.

Pierre Paul-Hus, Conservative MP

” [Les libéraux ont tenté] keep political promises doing nothing to keep Canadians safe. As the world grapples with Russia’s aggression, it is more important than ever that our military has the equipment they need to protect our vast borders and support our NATO allies, ”Mr. Paul Hus.

For its part, Lockheed Martin accepted the Trudeau government’s decision. “We are honored that the Government of Canada has selected the F-35 to proceed to the finalization stage, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the Canadian industry to deliver and maintain the F-35,” the company said on Twitter.

Last spring, three fighter jets were still running to replace the CF-18s. But in December, the company quietly decided to discard Boeing’s Super Hornet. So there are only two left: the Gripen from Swedish company Saab and the F-35 from Lockheed Martin.

To prevent the CF-18 fleet from becoming virtually unusable, the government had to invest $ 1.3 billion to extend the life of the aircraft until 2032. The Trudeau government also purchased 18 Australian CF-18s, which require significant redevelopment. upgrade.

With the Canadian Press

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