The Canadian and the US governments have finalised an agreement to procure 88 F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

The procurement agreement is a result of ‘Future Fighter Capability Project’ competition launched by the Canadian Government in 2017.

Lockheed Martin, the prime F-35 contractor, and Raytheon Technologies’ subsidiary Pratt & Whitney, engine maker, also took part in the agreement finalisation process.

Under the new contract, the company will deliver 88 F-35A multi-role fighter jets along with a comprehensive training programme and a sustainment solution customised specifically to meet the RCAF’s requirements.

Delivery of the first F-35A is slated to take place in 2026, followed by the delivery of the next six aircraft in 2027 and the next six in 2028.

Once delivered, the new fleet is expected to achieve full operational capability between 2032 and 2034.

The new aircraft will gradually replace the RCAF’s CF-18 Hornet aircraft by the end of 2032.

The F-35 will strengthen RCAF’s capability to operate with its allied forces to counter future threats.

Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand said: “Canada requires a fighter fleet to contribute to the safety and security of Canadians and protect the sovereignty of one of the largest expanses of airspace in the world.”

According to the Canadian Government, the F-35 procurement project, which is estimated to be $14.196bn (C$19bn), is the country’s largest investment in the RCAF in the last three decades.

The amount also covers the delivery of associated equipment, sustainment set-up, and support services, along with the construction of new Fighter Squadron facilities in Bagotville and Cold Lake, Canada.

Work under this project is further expected to support 3,300 jobs across Canada annually. The opportunities mainly include training, airframe and engine depots, and maintenance of aircraft components throughout their service life.