Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My organization has been involved in the program since 1997. I have a very small section that was instrumental, working with Industry Canada, in working with industry and leveraging opportunities for Canadian companies in a very proactive manner. As Mr. Kennedy said, or could say, our aerospace industry is the third largest in the world among the partners in the program for very small investments. In 1997, our initial contribution was $10 million, and in 2002 it was $100 million U.S. In 2006 we went to Treasury Board to continue to participate in the production, sustainment, and follow-on development phase, which gave us, and specifically the RCAF, unprecedented access to highly classified information. It also, as Industry Canada has mentioned, gave Canadian industry access to the development of new, leading-edge technology that will be exportable worldwide.
Back in 2006 we clearly felt there was no obligation to buy joint strike fighters at that time. But they continued to have the door open—for Canadian companies, my staff, and the air force staff—to the privileged information on how the program was developing.
We looked at the joint strike fighter at that time. That continues to be a viable option. As we told the government at that time, we would come back in the 2010 to 2012 timeframe to propose a solution for replacing the CF-18.