Canada Dumps SAAB Gripens; Selects Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Stealth Fighters For Multi-Billion Dollar Deal

Canada is finally looking to dump SAAB Gripen for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter jets and will acquire 88 new aircraft in a multi-billion dollar deal, Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi said.

Canada has been looking to acquire a new fighter plane to replace its aging fleet of CF-18s as part of its air force modernization program. The final competition was between European SAAB Gripen and American F-35 stealth fighters.

The fact that the Swedish Gripen-E made it to the final cut astonished everyone. It’s a massive turn of events, especially after Boeing was told it didn’t make it into the final phase.

Two other European manufacturers had also pulled out of the competition even before it began, claiming that the government’s conditions had slanted the race in favor of their US competitors.

File Image: US Fighter Jets

“This announcement marks another important milestone in Canada’s competitive 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 in missions around the globe. It has proven to be a mature, capable and interoperable aircraft and that is why we are moving to the finalization phase of this procurement,” Defense Minister Anita Anand, speaking alongside Tassi, told reporters.

The Canadian minister clarified that the final contract for the supply of 88 advanced fighter jets has not been signed yet as there is still work ahead before the contract can be awarded. The project to purchase 88 new fighter jets will become the largest investment in the modernization of the Canadian Air Force in over 30 years, Tassi noted.

It is pertinent to note that Canada is a member of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which is entrusted with aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning duties for North America. Being part of NORAD, experts had said that European Gripens ‘outflanking’ US fighter jets especially the F-35 would be very difficult.

Earlier, European firms – Airbus and Dassault had expressed displeasure with what they perceived as punishing criteria for upgrading their aircraft—the Eurofighter and Rafale, respectively—to fulfill Royal Canadian Air Force’s intelligence-sharing requirements.

File Image: SAAB Gripen

Canada has been flying the US-origin fighters for more than half a century and had it decided to purchase the Saab Gripen, it would have been a massive change in its policy.

In the 1940s, the Royal Canadian Air Force operated the Spitfire, a British warplane. The British de Havilland Vampire, a jet fighter that was decommissioned in the late 1950s, was the last non-American / European designed plane operated by Canada.

The Gripen could have been the most cost-effective option and could have resulted in more local manufacturing for Canada, had Ottawa decided to buy it. Saab’s proposal to the Canadian government included a detailed plan for delivering various benefits including high-quality jobs and technologies that will boost economic value and knowledge across the country.

According to reports, the expected cost of the purchase is between $11.2 billion and $14.2 billion. Delivery of the first aircraft is expected as early as 2025.
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  • Edited and Corrected: In the 1940s, the Royal Canadian Air Force operated the Spitfire, a British warplane. The British de Havilland Vampire (not Spitfire), was the last European-designed plane operated by Canada.