If Canada’s incoming Liberal Party government sticks to its election manifesto, it’s likely that Justin Trudeau, the prime minister-designate, will ditch plans to buy dozens of F-35 stealth Joint Strike Fighters from the U.S. and withdraw military support in Syria, according to a report by Defense News late Tuesday. Trudeau won a surprise landslide victory Monday, promising a different style of politics that doesn’t include the austerity measures imposed under the outgoing Conservative government.
Trudeau has previously stated that Canada’s military doesn’t need stealth aircraft for its defense needs and should concentrate on using the $8 billion it would have spent on the Lockheed Martin-built fighters to upgrade the country's navy and find a more cost-effective fighter jet for the air force.
“The primary mission of our fighter aircraft should remain the defense of North America, not stealth first-strike capability,” said a Liberal Party report from Oct. 5. “We will make investing in the Royal Canadian Navy a top priority. By purchasing more affordable alternatives to the F-35s, we will be able to invest in strengthening our Navy.”
However, Canada still needs an alternative to its CF-18 multirole fighter, which was introduced into service in 1983 by the now-defunct McDonnell Douglas. Boeing had been maintaining the aircraft since Boeing absorbed the company in 1997.
It’s not yet known what aircraft the incoming Canadian government will choose for its defense needs, although analysis by Defense One suggests that it could choose the F/A-18 Hornet, which is the newer version of the CF-18. Lockheed Martin said it had not been informed of Canada’s decision to ditch the F-35. "Canada remains a partner in the F-35 program. It is inappropriate to speculate on program impacts as a result of Canada's recent election," a Lockheed representative told Defense News.
While Trudeau will not be sworn in for a few weeks, his immediate conversations with U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday concluded that Ottawa would withdraw its support for strikes in Syria as soon as possible.
“I committed that we would continue to engage in a responsible way that understands how Canada has a role to play in the fight against ISIL,” Trudeau told journalists in a televised news conference from Ottawa, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. “But [President Obama] understands the commitments I’ve made around ending the combat mission.”