In the country’s last election, the Liberal Party said it wouldn’t buy the F-35 earmarked by the previous administration, on cost grounds. This is despite many warning that the Super Hornet would cost the same or even more than the F-35 over the life of the aircraft while delivering lesser capability.
The cost of the F-35A is decreasing yearly and by a significant volume due to economies of scale.
Oddly, the decision is based on a campaign promise made in late 2015 by then-prime ministerial candidate Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party to not buy the F-35A, as the RCAF had originally planned.
Canada has been involved in the Joint Strike Fighter Program from its beginning, investing US$10 million to be an “informed partner” during the evaluation process. Once Lockheed Martin was selected as the primary contractor for the JSF program, Canada elected to become a level 3 participant, along with Norway, Denmark, Turkey and Australia. An additional US$100 million from the Canadian Department of National Defence over 10 years and another $50 million from Industry Canada were dedicated in 2002, making them an early participant of the JSF program.
On 16 July 2010, the Canadian government announced that it would buy 65 F-35s to replace the existing 80 CF-18s for $16B (with all ancillary costs included) with deliveries planned for 2016.
There is precedent for purchasing Super Hornets on an interim basis; Australia bought 24 of the aircraft about five years ago for $2.5 billion, to replace that country’s antiquated F-111 jets until newer F-35s were ready. It’s likely Canada may be following this tactic according to a number of Canadian personnel we spoke to.
Despite this perhaps interim measure, the Liberals have refused to publicly rule out buying the F-35 since winning the election.