The Government of Canada announced its decision to purchase the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, JSFs, as Canada’s next generation fighter on 16 July 2010.
The unit price of the conventional takeoff and landing variant, the F-35A, of the JSF is estimated in the mid-$70 million U.S. range. The $9 billion committed to this purchase includes not only the cost of the 65 aircraft, but also the associated weapon systems, supporting infrastructure, initial spares, training simulators, contingency funds and project operating costs. All of these items are funded through the Canada first defence strategy and the national defence investment plan.
The maintenance and in-service support cost for Canada’s fleet of 65 F-35A fighters is estimated to be of the same order of magnitude as any current generation advanced fighter, at roughly $250 to $300 million per year. The Government of Canada is continuing to work with its JSF project partners to minimize the cost of sustainment by studying various economy measures, such as the pooling of spare parts for the global F-35 fleet.
As a result of Canada’s membership in the joint strike fighter program, its participation in the 2006 JSF production, sustainment, and follow-on development memorandum of understanding, and the industrial participation plans signed with JSF prime contractor Lockheed Martin, the value of economic opportunities available to Canadian industry is currently estimated at approximately $12 billion for production, with additional opportunities for sustainment and follow-on development. Over 60 Canadian companies, universities, and research laboratories have already won JSF related contracts valued at more than $350 million Canadian, even as full production of the aircraft has yet to commence. This figure is a clear demonstration of the significant benefits the JSF program has, and will have, for Canada, and an impressive rate of return on the approximately $200 million U.S. invested in the JSF program by the Government of Canada since 1997.
The decision to purchase the F-35 was made following extensive and rigorous analyses carried out by experts within the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces. These experts studied a range of aircraft options and a range of procurement methods. Three advanced fighter aircraft with capabilities comparable to or better than the Canadian Air Force’s current CF-18 Hornet fighter were subjected to in-depth assessments using confidential information obtained from manufacturers, as well as data provided via government to government channels and through Canada’s participation in the joint strike fighter program. The conclusion of these studies, conducted between 2005 and 2010, was that only the F-35 met all of the mandatory requirements specified in the Canadian Forces’ statement of operational requirements. While the statement of operational requirements contains sensitive information and, like all such documents, cannot be disclosed publicly without redactions, a listing of high level mandatory capabilities has been released publicly and tabled with the Standing Committee on National Defence.
The Government of Canada is committed to providing our men and women in uniform with the best equipment possible so as to ensure mission success and their safe return. Given Canada’s commitments to the North American Aerospace Defence Command and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the F-35A will enhance the Canadian Forces’ ability to fulfil its three core roles of defending Canada, defending North America in cooperation with the United States, and contributing to overseas operations in concert with our allies and partners. As a cutting-edge, adaptable, and sustainable multi-role fifth-generation fighter, the F-35A will renew Canada’s manned tactical fighter capability for the 21st century, permitting the Canadian Forces to meet the known threats of today, as well as the anticipated and unanticipated threats of the future.