Canada Defense Minister Backs Off Campaign Rejection of F-35 Jet

  • Minister Sajjan says focus is on best replacement aircraft
  • Trudeau on election trail rejected F-35 as too expensive

Canada’s new defense minister backed off a campaign-trail pledge by his Liberal Party that Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 jets would be excluded from a competition to replace the country’s aging fleet of military aircraft.

Harjit Sajjan said Monday during a conference call with reporters his focus is finding the best aircraft to replace the CF-18 jets before they become obsolete. He was asked twice whether the F-35 is being excluded from bidding, and both times he sidestepped the question. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while campaigning for the October election Canada “won’t purchase the F-35” because they’re too expensive.

Canada still needs to set the terms of a new competition for replacement aircraft, ones that can be available “in a timely manner” and be able to work on missions with U.S. and European allies, Sajjan said Monday. The previous government had invested in F-35 development contracts without signing a final purchase agreement.

“My focus isn’t about F-35 or any other aircraft; my focus” is about replacing the CF-18s, Sajjan said on the call. “We will open it up to an open process.”

Trudeau pledged during the campaign to “immediately” launch an open bidding process to buy a cheaper plane. Canada has previously considered Boeing Co.’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Saab AB’s Gripen, Dassault Aviation SA’s Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon, produced by a consortium including BAE Systems PLC,Airbus Group SE and Alenia Aermacchi SpA.

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