As programme moves into system development and demonstration, Canada is set to be followed by Italy and Netherlands

Italy and the Netherlands are expected to quickly follow Canada in signing up to participate in the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme. The move comes as the $24 billion system development and demonstration (SDD) phase starts to move into higher gear with US Department of Defense funding set to more than double in the 2003 budget.

With its 7 February memorandum of understanding, Canada becomes the second overseas SDD phase partner, after the UK. Canada will be a Level 3 participant at a cost of $150 million. The DoD's budget request includes $3.47 billion for the SDD in fiscal year 2003 on top the $1.52 billion this year.

Trade body Aerospace Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) expects domestic companies to receive C$6-10 billion ($3.8-6.3billion) of work over the programme's life. Beneficiaries are expected to include Avcorp, Bristol Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney Canada and the local divisions of Honeywell and Lockheed Martin, says Ron Kane, AIAC vice president policy and research. Canada has also offered test facilities at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta, and its National Research Council laboratories.

Despite joining SDD, Canada is not committed to buying JSFs. Alan Williams, assistant deputy minister for materiel, Canadian Department for National Defence, says the country's Boeing CF-18s will remain in service until 2017-18, adding: "We will take our time between now and then to assess our capabilities and our needs."

The JSF Programme Office has outline agreements with Italy and the Netherlands as well as for a joint Denmark/Norway participation, but signatures require political approval. Dutch prime minister Wim Kok said earlier this month that the JSF is front runner in the Netherlands' fighter competition, and cabinet approval was expected as Flight International closed for press. The Netherlands would join at Level 1, Italy at a similar level, with a 3-5% stake, while Denmark and Norway are looking at Level 3.

Source: Flight International