The move indicates that Canada – under pressure to increase defense spending while the war in Ukraine is raging – is closer to making a decision that has dragged on for more than a decade.
“This announcement marks another important milestone in Canada’s competition process to purchase modern fighter jets for the Royal Canadian Air Force,” Tassi said.
“The F-35 is in operational use by NORAD and NATO partners on missions around the globe. It has proven to be a mature, capable and interoperable aircraft, which is why we are moving to the final phase of this procurement, “Defense Minister Anita Anand, who spoke with Tassi, told reporters.
The federal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will now only hold detailed talks with Lockheed Martin. Ottawa says it hopes to award the contract this year and take the first deliveries in 2025.
Defense sources had long relied on the U.S. company, as Canada belongs to the consortium that developed its F-35 jet, and the fact that the aircraft is the military’s first choice. Ottawa says the contract could be worth up to $ 19 billion (about $ 15 billion).
“We look forward to continuing our partnership with Canadian industry to supply and maintain the F-35 to the Royal Canadian Air Force,” Lockheed Martin Canada’s CEO Lorraine Ben said in a statement.
If the negotiations fail for any reason, the government will turn to Swedish Saab, the other candidate.
“While we maintain our position that Saab presented the best offer for the Future Fighter Capability Project, we respect the decision of the Government of Canada,” the Swedish company said in a statement, adding that it will continue to work with Canada in the current and future programs.
However, Canada has a long history of using American military equipment and, unlike Sweden, belongs to both NATO and NORAD, the North American defense organization.
Trudeau came to power in 2015 and promised not to buy the F-35 as too expensive, but has changed its position.
The obvious alternative would have been Boeing, but it fell into disfavor after trading against Canadian rival Bombardier and was excluded from the competition last December.