Lockheed Martin may decide to move the industrial participation that Canada currently benefits from on the F-35 to another programme partner if Ottawa decides against acquiring the Lightning II, the company says.
Canada is an industrial partner on the programme, but is still evaluating which type it will acquire to replace its Boeing CF-18 fleet. As a result, Lockheed is now assessing whether the workshare that Ottawa benefits from could be carried out elsewhere.
Jeff Babione, F-35 programme lead for Lockheed, told media at the Royal International Air Tattoo on 7 July that Lockheed is “actively looking” at alternatives, but is still at the stage of determining where else the work could be carried out.
His comments came a day after Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan said that the government is consulting industry representatives on its CF-18 replacement options, and will begin industry and government conversations during the Farnborough air show from 11 July.
Ottawa will then gather pricing and delivery information over the coming months, Sajjan says.
“Certainly Canada remains an important partner,” Babione notes, while adding that a condition of its industrial benefits from the development and production of the fifth-generation fighter was a purchase of the aircraft.
“We’re concerned that Canada would not be able to do that,” he says. “We would rather Canada purchase the aircraft. But there is a timeline where we may have to pass work elsewhere.”
According to Lockheed, Canadian industry could benefit from up to $11 billion in opportunities from the F-35 programme, and to date the programme has contracted business worth $750 million in the country.
Should Canada choose to purchase an interim aircraft before selecting a final CF-18 replacement, a “logical output” would be that Lockheed would move the work elsewhere, Babione says.
Ahead of the election of the current government in Ottawa, now-prime minister Justin Trudeau pledged that a planned 65-aircraft F-35A acquisition would be scrapped, in favour of staging a competition.
A major defence policy review is due to be released in 2017 that will cover the spectrum of defence capabilities in Canada, but the CF-18 replacement is expected to run independently.