Home » Aviation » Canadian Participation in F-35 Program Remains Murky; U.S. Hopes for Open Competition for CF-18 Replacement

Canadian Participation in F-35 Program Remains Murky; U.S. Hopes for Open Competition for CF-18 Replacement

F-35 test pilot Maj Charles “Flak” Trickey fired the GAU-22/A 25mm gun from F-35A aircraft AF-2 in the first aerial gun test operating on the China Lake, California, test range, Oct. 30, 2015. US Air Force photo.

F-35 test pilot Maj Charles “Flak” Trickey fired the GAU-22/A 25mm gun from F-35A aircraft AF-2 in the first aerial gun test operating on the China Lake, California, test range, Oct. 30, 2015. US Air Force photo.

Canada’s participation in the global Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter remains in limbo, with conflicting reports coming out of the country since the installation of a Liberal Party government following the Oct. 19 election.

Though Canada has been a partner in the F-35 program since 1997, the Liberal Party made its feelings quite clear: “We will not buy the F-35 stealth fighter-bomber,” according to the party’s website.

“We will immediately launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft,” reads the policy summary.
“The primary mission of our fighter aircraft should remain the defence of North America, not stealth first-strike capability. We will reduce the procurement budget for replacing the CF-18s, and will instead purchase one of the many, lower-priced options that better match Canada’s defence needs.”

Though many in Canada thought the election of the Liberal Party and new prime minister Justin Trudeau meant the death of the Canadian F-35, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told reporters this week that the door may still be open for Canadian participation in the 12-nation collaboration.

USNI News graphic

USNI News graphic by Corinne Thompson

Speaking of a recent meeting with Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, Work said, “essentially, I just said, ‘hey, what is your thinking?’ Because I said I wasn’t here to try to put any pressure on him,” Work said, according to a transcript of his comments.

“I think they’re going to have another full and open competition. I think the F-35 will be part of that, but the requirements from the competition may change,” Work said.
“We don’t know. And obviously, as you know, it’s the requirements on the competition which tell you what type of plane you’re going to get.”

Work added that he believed the Canadian government would hold a “fair and open competition” and move forward “very prudently,” but he added that the officials have only been in their jobs for a few weeks now and therefore couldn’t tell him much more about their plans.

It is unclear how Canada’s departure from the collaboration would affect the rest of the program. So far 12 countries have committed to buying 3,170 planes total – primarily the conventional variant, but with the United States, United Kingdom and Italy buying the F-35B short-takeoff/vertical landing variant and the U.S. alone buying the carrier variant – and the cost per plane is based in part on those figures. Canada was set to buy 65, or about 2 percent of the total planes.

A CF-18 Hornet from 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron in Bagotville, Québec receives fuel from a CC-150 Polaris tanker while flying over the North Atlantic Ocean in support of NATO in 2014. Canadian Armed Forces Photo

A CF-18 Hornet from 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron in Bagotville, Québec receives fuel from a CC-150 Polaris tanker while flying over the North Atlantic Ocean in support of NATO in 2014. Canadian Armed Forces Photo

F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin notes on its website that “Canadian industry is already contributing to the production of the F-35 and, in turn, the F-35 is contributing to the Canadian aerospace industry by developing indigenous capabilities and bringing new manufacturing and engineering technologies to the country.”

Canada’s early participation allowed the country to help select the winning airplane design, which the new government now may reject in favor of a less expensive alternative better suited to scaled down operational requirements – homeland defense rather than a more offensive-focused stealthy strike capability.

  • thumpgunner

    I understand, the F-35 has become an over priced not working piece of equipment.

    • sferrin

      “I understand” uh, obviously not.

  • KC135TopBoom

    There are many, more capable, cheaper, and proven fighter aircraft available. The F-15, F-16, F/A-18E/F, Typhoon, Rafael, etc. all are more capable in air defense and if needed, bombing than the F-35 ruptured duck that won’t meet all its promised capabilities for at least another decade, if ever.
    Even the USAF is now looking to buy up to 72 new build F-15s, F-16s, or F/A-18E/Fs because the F-35 (USAF IOC next year) has failed to meet its requirements.

    • sferrin

      You should stick to ancient tankers. You obviously know nothing about modern fighter aircraft. And no, the USAF isn’t looking to buy new F-teens.

      • silencedogoodreturns
    • leroy

      No 72 new F-15s, F-16s or F/A-18s for the Air Force (as if the AF would ever swallow hard enough to buy the NAVY’S F/A-18E/F over their beloved F-15E!). That was another false rumor floated around by what are supposedly “trusted” defense news sites. To say nothing of the anti-JSF comments posted all over the blogosphere. Many surely planted there by paid Russian and Chinese Internet trolls (neither China or Russia want to see the F-35 deployed. They tremble in fear over its advanced capabilities).

      Britain just committed to 138 F-35Bs. Congress just approved the purchase of 63 more of various models of the JSF for FY16 (6 more than the Pentagon requested and 20 more than was procured in 2015). The USMC declared IOC this summer. Norway, Japan, Israel, South Korea all set to buy. Canada has not announced any firm decision to withdraw (they said they’ll have a fair selection fly-off).

      So for those of you who think the F-35 program will wither on the vine and eventually die off I say – dream on! That ain’t gonna happen. Nor should it. Not if the U.S. wants to maintain its technological edge in fighters. Aircraft we deploy all around the globe to protect this nation. To expect our pilots to fly aircraft developed in the 1970s – fly them all the way into the 2050s, 2060s – is preposterous! Comparable to having an F-86 flying today. Just stick an AIM-9 on it and it’s ready to go. I don’t think so!

      • Michael Nunez

        Right On . The F-35 will Dominate , the haters will crawl back to where they come from…… .

  • Rob C.

    I think the government of Canada wants to be clear there no back room deal being cut. They’re looking just defend their country and do Nato deployments. Considering how badly their budget barely maintains their existing fleet…i remember hearing them ahaving to remove parts from a air force museum to salvage a C130 for parts.

    They want try support a Stealth Attack/Fighter? I think they should by in on cheap F-18E/Fs while theys till last. Or least get something that really meets the needs their actually going do with their force.

    Russia IS expanding into the Arctic, they’ll certainty need to long-range fighter to do intercepts.

  • VZ29

    I seriously doubt that they will agree to an open competition, given the inevitability that the F-35 would end up winning.

    • CharleyA

      Not on price, which seems to be the overriding parameter at this point. The Super Hornet looks to be the cheapest option, and would allow the Canadians to leverage significant existing infrastructure, saving even more.

      • sferrin

        You get what you pay for.

      • Don Clark

        In a few years as production rates increase Canada may be able to buy the F-35As for as little as US $75 million flyaway. Whereas the Australians bought their Super Hornets for over US $100 million flyaway. The Super Hornet is NOT a cheaper option.

        • James B.

          The Aussie Super Hornets include support odds and ends; the aircraft alone is cheaper. Your F-35 number, on the other hand, is the airplane alone and almost certainly wishful thinking.

      • Michael Nunez

        According to the Canadian Government’s Website , being able to Dominate a conflict to protect Canadian’s is not the priority , seeing how much they can squeeze out of American’s ….. Is

  • 2IDSGT

    It’s pretty obvious that whoever wrote the Liberal’s platform has a rather infantile grasp of both tactical and strategic doctrine. A shame the RCAF has to pay the price for so much aggressive ignorance.

  • VOnDC

    That’s fine, no planes, no Canadian industrial contributions! LM has constructed the program so that work can be shifted. The bigger issue is this a return to the old days of a liberal government in Canada of the US providing all of Canada’s defenses? In the mean time, like Europe, they continue to allow runaway spending and cost on their entitlement programs.

  • omegatalon

    This is another reason why the US should withdraw from NATO as everyone is going on the cheap while US taxpayers are footing the bill for the Western world; withdraw from NATO and force Canada as well as Europe to stand up to Russia and China on their own.

  • Weaponeer

    As a Canadian, I can assure you that there is not a snowball’s chance in h-e-double hockey sticks that Prime Minister Patouf will buy any F-35A’s or even F-18E’s, the smart money is on an ADV variant of the Textron Scorpion with outdated radars, comms, and missiles stripped from other types.
    Fortunately, he probably won’t last a term given that his policies are based on knee jerk idiocy and principles that have long since been proven to not be workable, and given the proper choice of a presentable candidate and repeated reminders that the country is much worse off under his blowhardism, Canada will get F-35’s not long past the original time frame that it otherwise would have and the Scorpions can be sold to Argentina or some other backwards third world country that elects closet communist governments or their equivalent.

    • muzzleloader

      The USA has a closet communist in power at the present.

  • wazzel

    The F-35 is such a colossally, incapable hunk o’ junk. Lockheed should pay us to take these ridiculous things off their hands.

    A proper, open competition should allow Canada to consider Russian, French and Swedish fighter jets. There is really no need to have the F-35 compete again. Everything else already kicks its pathetic behind.

    • Don Clark

      As long as Canada is a member of NATO, Russia or China won’t be selling you any fighter jet. Nor are the Typhoon or Rafale any cheaper than the F-35A. A Persian Gulf nation is buying Typhoons for US $150 million, and India haven’t signed off on US $200 million Rafales. And to think Canada in a few years as production rates increase can buy F-35As for as low as US $75 million fly away. Australia bought the Super Hornets for over US $100 million each as a stop gap to fill the void of their retired F-111s. So far they are the only country to buy Super Hornets. The only aircraft that may be bought that is cheaper, not by much, is the Gripen, with shorter range and weapons capacity. Me thinks the Liberals have not done their homework well involving price of new first class fighter jets.

    • Michael Rich

      You’re an idiot for even proposing Russian jets. Yes, lets integrate NATO’s main adversary’s jets into ours. The thought of that alone is bad enough, now think about how uncoordinated they would be with their allies because they are using the enemies tech. It’s just like what happened in Turkey, the US said that if they bought Chinese SAM systems they would not integrate it with the rest of NATO.

      • wazzel

        Canada isn’t a part of the US… They can buy whatever they want. Frankly, I hope they buy anything but American jets.

        • Michael Rich

          I didn’t say they were part of the US dingnuts. They are part of NATO whose currently biggest threat is Russia. Even Canada is at odds with Russia over the arctic.

          • wazzel

            I don’t think Canada is hostile towards Russia… That’s us. Canada could buy anything from Russia if it wishes to, including airplanes.

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  • Michael Nunez

    Reading through the lines gives one the impression that the Canadian Government is Piggy Backing the American Tax-Payer. It has nothing to do with the Defense of the Canadian People, it is just trying to shirk their responsibilities on someone else.

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    Political actions to rip the Canadian Military on the basis of (We don’t have the Money) have been going on since the 1950’s with one of the most infamous being the AVRO CF-105 Arrow which was never given a chance and cancel after 5 test beds had been built. Instead the RCAF ended up buying F-101 Voodoo’s which they had rejected during the previous administration

  • Secundius

    Canada is ALSO interested in the Saab JAS.39E/F Gripen’s, too. And how can you Blame Them, with Lockheed-Martin’s “Loosie Goosie” Track Record of “Inflating the Prices” and “Pushing Back the Production Schedule”…

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