Canada has signed off on the final contract to buy F-35 jet fighters to replace the air force’s aging CF-18s, Defence Minister Anita Anand revealed Monday.

The final agreement for 88 warplanes won’t see the first delivered until 2026 and the first F-35 squadrons will not be operational until 2029, senior defence officials said during a technical briefing before the minister’s announcement.

Interestingly, the project budget of $19 billion remains the same as originally projected by the Liberal government when it signaled the purchase last year. Anand and other officials stuck to the projection despite inflation which has seen the budgets for other major programs increase dramatically.

A senior defence official, speaking on background, said the F-35 will be purchased in phases and that the first tranche of four aircraft will be $85 million US per fighter.

The deal represents a dramatic turnaround for the Liberal government, which promised not to buy the F-35 and instead purchase a cheaper jet fighter and use the savings to bolster the navy.

The Conservative government of then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper first announced plans to go with the Lockheed-Martin-built jet in the summer of 2010.

WATCH | Anand announces $19B deal for F-35s:

Minister announces $19 billion investment in new fighter jets

Defence Minister Anita Anand says the new fleet will include 88 new F35 fighter jets, with the first four aircraft expected in 2026.

The plan was shelved after criticism from both the parliamentary budget officer and the auditor general, who questioned the cost and whether defence officials had done enough homework on what other aircraft might meet the air force’s needs.

Anand said Monday that, by waiting, Canada will be buying a proven aircraft that other allies are now using and that the technology used in the stealth fighter has evolved to the point where it has no issues.

The F-35 has had — for several years — a series of high-profile glitches and mechanical problems.

A second senior defence official, also speaking on background Monday, said that Canada will get the latest version of the F-35 — Lot 18, Block 4 — which has the most advanced technology. 

 



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