Canada’s Next Generation Fighter Capability – The Joint Strike Fighter F‑35 Lightning II

The Cana­da First Defence Strat­e­gy states that the Cana­di­an Forces will acquire a next-gen­er­a­tion fight­er capa­bil­i­ty that will help them car­ry out their core mis­sions of defend­ing the sov­er­eign­ty of Cana­di­an and North Amer­i­can air­space through the North Amer­i­can Aero­space Defense Com­mand (NORAD), and pro­vid­ing Cana­da with an effec­tive and mod­ern capa­bil­i­ty for inter­na­tion­al oper­a­tions.

Cana­da will acquire an air­craft ful­ly inter­op­er­a­ble with our key allies to effec­tive­ly con­duct joint oper­a­tions through the North Atlantic Treaty Orga­ni­za­tion (NATO) or a coali­tion. At home, the Cana­di­an Forces will acquire a robust air­craft, capa­ble of oper­at­ing across Canada’s vast geog­ra­phy and under harsh and vary­ing weath­er con­di­tions. A next gen­er­a­tion fight­er with stealth tech­nol­o­gy is an extreme­ly effec­tive deter­rent against chal­lenges to Cana­di­an sovereignty. 

In July 2010, the Gov­ern­ment of Cana­da announced it is acquir­ing the Joint Strike Fight­er (JSF) F‑35, a fifth gen­er­a­tion fight­er jet, to replace its fourth gen­er­a­tion fleet of CF-18s, which are expect­ed to reach the end of their oper­a­tional life in the 2017–2020 time­frame. Deliv­ery of the new air­craft is expect­ed to start in 2016. 

The F‑35 is the only avail­able fifth gen­er­a­tion air­craft that meets the Cana­di­an Forces’s need for a next-gen­er­a­tion fight­er. The acqui­si­tion of the F‑35 will help the Cana­di­an Forces oper­ate effec­tive­ly to defend against the threats of the 21st cen­tu­ry at home and abroad. 

The F‑35 is less vis­i­ble to radar, pro­vid­ing very low observ­able stealth, has inte­grat­ed sen­sor fusion that pro­vides the pilot with all avail­able infor­ma­tion at a glance, and high-capac­i­ty, secure net-enabled oper­a­tions that allows all F‑35 air­craft to com­mu­ni­cate with each oth­er and share data in a secure environment. 

What con­sti­tutes a fifth gen­er­a­tion fight­er?

There are three key capa­bil­i­ties that dis­tin­guish a fifth gen­er­a­tion fight­er air­craft from a fourth gen­er­a­tion:

  1. Inter­op­er­abil­i­ty: a fifth gen­er­a­tion air­craft pro­vides a unique com­bi­na­tion of stealth, long-range high-res­o­lu­tion sen­sors, and secure high-capac­i­ty net­works that allow all F‑35 air­craft to com­mu­ni­cate with each oth­er and share data in a secure environment;
  2. Sensors/Data fusion: fifth gen­er­a­tion incor­po­rates a sys­tem that con­sol­i­dates tac­ti­cal infor­ma­tion from the sen­sors and off-board sources to pro­vide pilots with a clear under­stand­ing of the tac­ti­cal sit­u­a­tion at a glance;
  3. Sur­viv­abil­i­ty: the sur­viv­abil­i­ty of a fifth gen­er­a­tion air­craft is sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased by very low observ­able stealth, advanced sen­sors and secure data-link, which means a fifth gen­er­a­tion air­craft can accom­plish more in a mis­sion with few­er sup­port­ing assets required.

A fourth gen­er­a­tion air­craft can­not be upgrad­ed to a fifth gen­er­a­tion; the capa­bil­i­ties of a fifth gen­er­a­tion air­craft, such as stealth tech­nol­o­gy, long-range high-res­o­lu­tion sen­sors, auto­mat­ed data fusion and secure high-capac­i­ty net­works, must be built in. 

A fifth gen­er­a­tion fight­er pro­vides Cana­da with the high­est prob­a­bil­i­ty of mis­sion suc­cess, as well as the high­est prob­a­bil­i­ty that the Cana­di­an Forces pilot and air­craft will return home safe­ly from the mis­sion.

The Joint Strike Fight­er Pro­gram and Canada’s His­to­ry of Par­tic­i­pa­tion

The F‑35 has been devel­oped by Lock­heed Mar­tin and part­ners through the Joint Strike Fight­er (JSF) pro­gram, a multi­na­tion­al effort to build and sus­tain an afford­able, mul­ti-role, next gen­er­a­tion stealth fight­er air­craft. Part­ners in the pro­gram include: the Unit­ed States, Cana­da, the Unit­ed King­dom, the Nether­lands, Italy, Turkey, Den­mark, Nor­way, and Aus­tralia. Pur­chas­ing the F‑35 will ensure Cana­da remains inter­op­er­a­ble with these major allies – includ­ing the US, our NORAD part­ner – well into the mid­dle of this century. 

JSF is the sin­gle largest fight­er air­craft pro­gram in his­to­ry. The total val­ue of the pro­gram is expect­ed to exceed US$383 bil­lion, with pro­duc­tion expect­ed to top 5,000 air­craft; JSF part­ners are antic­i­pat­ed to acquire more than 3,000 air­craft, and export sales are esti­mat­ed by Lock­heed Mar­tin at more than 2,000 air­craft. Based on these pre­dic­tions, roy­al­ties from the export sales amount­ing to approx­i­mate­ly $130 mil­lion will accrue to the Gov­ern­ment of Canada’s Con­sol­i­dat­ed Rev­enue Fund. 

The JSF pro­gram is com­prised of three dis­tinct phas­es: the Con­cept Demon­stra­tion Phase (1997 – 2001) which involved two com­pet­ing bid­ders devel­op­ing pro­to­type air­craft (Lock­heed Mar­tin was select­ed as the prime con­trac­tor); the Sys­tem Devel­op­ment and Demon­stra­tion Phase (2001 – 2013), devel­op­ing and test­ing the air­craft sys­tems and com­po­nents to be used; and final­ly, the Pro­duc­tion, Sus­tain­ment and Fol­low-on Devel­op­ment Phase (2007–2051), ini­ti­at­ing pro­duc­tion of the air­craft and sus­tain­ing parts for the ser­vice­able life of the air­craft and fol­low-on development. 

Cana­da has been a par­tic­i­pant in the JSF pro­gram since 1997, when the Depart­ment of Nation­al Defence signed on to the Con­cept Demon­stra­tion phase with an invest­ment of US$10 mil­lion. As part of this phase, Cana­da par­tic­i­pat­ed in the exten­sive and rig­or­ous U.S.-led com­pet­i­tive process where two bid­ders, Boe­ing and Lock­heed Mar­tin, devel­oped and com­pet­ed pro­to­type air­craft. This process led to the selec­tion of Lock­heed Mar­tin as the JSF man­u­fac­tur­er in 2001. 

In 2002, Cana­da joined the Sys­tem Devel­op­ment and Demon­stra­tion phase with a mon­e­tary invest­ment of U.S.$100 mil­lion, with an addi­tion­al U.S.$50 mil­lion con­tributed through fed­er­al Cana­di­an tech­nol­o­gy invest­ment pro­grams. The Sys­tem Devel­op­ment and Demon­stra­tion phase runs through 2015. 

In 2003, the Unit­ed States invit­ed the cur­rent part­ners to par­tic­i­pate in the Pro­duc­tion, Sus­tain­ment and Fol­low-on Devel­op­ment phase of the pro­gram. In Decem­ber 2006, Cana­da signed the JSF Pro­duc­tion, Sus­tain­ment and Fol­low-on Devel­op­ment Mem­o­ran­dum of Under­stand­ing (MOU). The cost for Cana­da to par­tic­i­pate in this phase is approx­i­mate­ly U.S.$551 mil­lion over the course of the 2007–2051 time­frame. This con­tri­bu­tion will be used to cov­er Canada’s por­tion of pro­duc­tion, sus­tain­ment and fol­low-on devel­op­ment costs, includ­ing com­mon tool­ing, sus­tain­ment, and fol­low-on devel­op­ment activities. 

Acquir­ing a Next Gen­er­a­tion Fight­er Capa­bil­i­ty

In 2008, the Gov­ern­ment of Cana­da announced its intent to replace the CF-18 fleet with a Next Gen­er­a­tion Fight­er Capa­bil­i­ty (NGFC). This was announced as a key com­mit­ment under the Cana­da First Defence Strategy. 

In 2010, the Gov­ern­ment of Cana­da exer­cised its options under the JSF pro­gram mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing with the part­ner nations to acquire the F‑35 to meet Canada’s oper­a­tional require­ment, while pro­vid­ing the best val­ue for Canada. 

By acquir­ing a next gen­er­a­tion fight­er air­craft through the JSF pro­gram, Cana­da will see a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in the cost of acqui­si­tion and sav­ings through­out the life-cycle of the air­craft, due to the col­lab­o­ra­tive approach to the sus­tain­ment and fol­low-on development. 

The Gov­ern­ment of Cana­da has com­mit­ted approx­i­mate­ly CAD$9 bil­lion to the acqui­si­tion of 65 F‑35 air­craft and asso­ci­at­ed weapons, sup­port­ing infra­struc­ture, ini­tial spares, train­ing sim­u­la­tors, con­tin­gency funds and project oper­at­ing costs. This is fund­ed through the Cana­da First Defence Strat­e­gy and the Nation­al Defence Invest­ment Plan. 

The major­i­ty of the expen­di­tures will not be required until the 2015–2020 time­frame, when Cana­da will begin to take deliv­ery of the air­craft. Cana­di­an indus­try will begin to ben­e­fit imme­di­ate­ly, pro­vid­ing a near-term boost to the Cana­di­an aero­space and defence sector. 

Sus­tained Eco­nom­ic Ben­e­fits for Cana­di­an Indus­try

Canada’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the JSF pro­gram brings sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits to Cana­da. This pro­gram is deliv­er­ing on the Cana­da First Defence Strategy’s com­mit­ment to a renewed rela­tion­ship with Canada’s defence indus­try, lever­ag­ing Canada’s com­pet­i­tive advan­tage and work­ing with indus­try to help posi­tion Cana­di­an com­pa­nies for suc­cess in the glob­al mar­ket­place. With a long-term invest­ment in this air­craft, Canada’s defence indus­try has a rare and unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to be a part of the JSF glob­al sup­ply chain, advanc­ing its tech­nol­o­gy, while bring­ing jobs and sus­tained eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits to regions across Canada. 

In order to max­i­mize indus­tri­al ben­e­fits and min­i­mize costs, part­ner coun­tries agreed to a best-val­ue approach to indus­tri­al par­tic­i­pa­tion in the JSF pro­gram. In accor­dance with the JSF mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing and in sup­port of Cana­di­an indus­try, Indus­try Cana­da has signed agree­ments with Lock­heed Mar­tin and part­ners. These indus­tri­al par­tic­i­pa­tion agree­ments have pro­vid­ed unprece­dent­ed access to a sig­nif­i­cant multi­na­tion­al defence pro­gram for com­pa­nies across Cana­da, includ­ing small and medi­um enterprises. 

Par­tic­i­pa­tion in the JSF pro­gram has already pro­vid­ed Cana­di­an indus­try with long-term, high tech­nol­o­gy indus­tri­al oppor­tu­ni­ties, such as advanced com­pos­ite man­u­fac­tur­ing, mis­sion sys­tems and high speed machin­ing. To date, Cana­da has invest­ed approx­i­mate­ly CAD$168 mil­lion in the JSF pro­gram. Since 2002, the Government’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the JSF pro­gram has led to more than CAD$350 mil­lion in con­tracts for more than 85 Cana­di­an com­pa­nies, research lab­o­ra­to­ries, and universities—meaning that Cana­da has already seen a two-to-one return on its investment. 

Now that Cana­da has com­mit­ted to pur­chas­ing the F‑35, Cana­di­an indus­tri­al oppor­tu­ni­ties could exceed CAD$12 bil­lion for the pro­duc­tion of the air­craft. Sus­tain­ment and fol­low-on oppor­tu­ni­ties for Cana­di­an indus­try are emerg­ing and will be avail­able over the 40-year life of the pro­gram. For instance, in accor­dance with the indus­tri­al par­tic­i­pa­tion agree­ments, all 19 Cana­di­an com­pa­nies man­u­fac­tur­ing items for the F‑35 will also repair and over­haul those com­po­nents for the entire glob­al fleet. 


Not only does the F‑35 meet all of the Cana­di­an Forces oper­a­tional require­ments for a next gen­er­a­tion fight­er air­craft, the F‑35 offers the best val­ue by pro­vid­ing excep­tion­al capa­bil­i­ty at the low­est cost with excel­lent ben­e­fits and oppor­tu­ni­ties for the Cana­di­an defence indus­try. This acqui­si­tion will equip the Cana­di­an Forces with the air­craft it needs to defend Canada’s sov­er­eign­ty and con­tribute to the defence of North Amer­i­ca and inter­na­tion­al security. 

For more infor­ma­tion: 1–866-377‑0811/613–996-2353

Depart­ment of Nation­al Defence, Kanada 

Team GlobDef

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