Canada to buy 65 F-35 jet fighters in C$9 bln deal

Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:21pm EDT
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will buy 65 new fighter jets from Lockheed Martin Corp for C$9 billion ($8.6 billion), one of the biggest arms deals in the nation's history, Defense Minister Peter MacKay said on Friday.

The first of the new generation Joint Strike Fighters will be delivered in 2016. The F-35s are designed to replace Canada's CF-18s, which are scheduled to reach the end of their working lives in about 2020.

MacKay brushed off criticism from opposition legislators who say the planes are too expensive and who question why Lockheed Martin received a sole-source contract.

"This is the best aircraft we can provide our men and women in uniform ... This is one of the largest defense procurement projects in Canadian history," MacKay told a news conference.

The C$9 billion also covers weapons, training and equipment. MacKay said media reports of a separate C$7 billion 20-year maintenance deal were wrong and said an agreement would be concluded once the jets started going into production.

The Joint Strike Fighter program is being funded by the United States, Canada, Turkey, Britain, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Australia and the Netherlands. Canada, which was involved from the start, says it has already spent C$168 million.

The JSF is set to be the world's costliest arms acquisition program. The United States alone is scheduled to buy 2,443 of the planes for more than $300 billion.

Industry Minister Tony Clement said Canadian companies would be able to bid for business for all the planes, not just the ones Ottawa will buy.   Continued...

 
<p>A member of the Canadian Forces has his picture taken beside a F-35 Joint Strike Fighter before the start of a news conference in Ottawa July 16, 2010. Canada will buy 65 new fighter jets from Lockheed Martin Corp for C$9 billion ($8.6 billion), one of the biggest arms deals in the nation's history, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said on Friday. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>