Likelihood of F-35 purchase increases as Boeing reportedly dropped from Canada’s fighter jet procurement process

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On November 23, Ottawa-area activists held the ‘Defund Warplanes’ banner as the Speech from the Throne was being read. Photo by Koozma J. Tarasoff.

On November 25, the Canadian Press reported: “The federal government has told Boeing that its bid to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s with a new fleet of the American company’s Super Hornet fighter jets did not meets its requirements.”

The article adds: “Three sources from industry and government say the message was delivered Wednesday [November 24] as the other two companies [Lockheed Martin and Saab] were being told they did meet the government’s requirements.”

Reuters further notes: “Defense analysts had been certain Ottawa would exclude Saab’s Gripen plane. Unlike Canada, Sweden is neither a member of NATO or NORAD, the North American defense organization. Canada belongs to the consortium that developed Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jet, which defense sources say is the preferred choice of the air force.”

Liberals had vowed not to buy the F-35

This news increases speculation that the F-35 will be the aircraft chosen as Canada’s next fighter jet, possibly in March/April 2022.

Notably, just prior to becoming Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau vowed that a Liberal government would scrap the Conservative plan to buy F-35s and launch an “open and transparent competition” to buy more affordable airplanes to replace the current fleet of fighter jets.

Trudeau even promised to exclude the F-35 from that new bidding process.

The election platform for the Liberals in 2015 even stated in bold: “We will not buy the F-35 stealth fighter-bomber.”

Their Real Change platform further noted: “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.”

Questions about the procurement process

Beyond why the F-35 remains in the running despite these election pledges, here are five other questions we have:

1- When will the Parliamentary Budget Officer conduct a full-cost assessment of the lifespan costs of these fighter jets? While the purchase cost may be $19 billion, the full cost over 30-years has been estimated by community activists at $76.8 billion.

2- Will a calculation be made on the greenhouse gas emissions from this fleet of 88 fighter jets? A basic calculation would suggest the fleet could consume 3.94 billion litres of fuel. At COP26 this month there was a call for transparency in military emissions.

3- The current fleet of CF-18s has conducted an estimated 1,598 offensive bombing missions over the past 30 years. Murray Brewster of CBC News has reported on DND’s refusal to disclose the casualty figures from its bombing missions in Iraq and Syria. Will a comprehensive report on casualties be released before billions are spent on new warplanes?

4- At what point and how will the United States grant its “ultimate certification” of the Canadian government’s choice of a fighter jet? Lee Berthiaume of The Canadian Press has reported: “American officials will need to certify the fighter jet Canada buys at the end of a multibillion-dollar procurement [process].”

5- Will there be a parliamentary debate on the lifespan costs, carbon pollution, offensive uses and ultimate certification process prior to the contract with either Lockheed Martin or Saab being signed next year?

We continue to closely follow this situation.

Further reading: New warplanes signal the Canadian military’s continued occupation of Dene Su’lene’ lands in northern Alberta.

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