The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is expected to be part of Canada's upcoming fighter jet competition, a U.S. general said.
Canada's commitment to buy 65 of the stealthy fifth-generation aircraft is in question after a new administration came into power pledging to launch a fighter jet competition seeking cheaper alternatives to the Lockheed Martin Corp. design.
Before being elected prime minister, Justin Trudeau last year made clear his dissatisfaction with the status of the country's military acquisition program to replace its CF-18 aircraft made by Boeing Co.
"The Conservative government never actually justified or explained why they felt Canada needed a fifth-generation fighter," he told the National Post newspaper. "They just talked about it like it was obvious. It was obvious, as we saw through the entire process, that they were particularly, and some might say unreasonably or unhealthily, attached to the F-35 aircraft."
Even so, Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan said he thinks the F-35 will be part of that contest.
"Canada is still a partner in the program; they have not change their status," Bogdan told reporters last week in his office in Arlington, Virginia. "What I believe will happen is that sometime this spring the government will decide to have a competition. I also believe that the F-35 will be part of that competition, but it's up to Canada to decide that.
"We clearly understand governments take time to make tough decisions like this," he added. "We're watching what happens and we will respond to the needs of Canada."
The F-35 is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons acquisition program, estimated to cost $391 billion to purchase a total of 2,457 aircraft for the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy alone.
Eight countries have committed to help develop the F-35, including the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway. Also, Israel, Japan and South Korea plan to buy production models of the aircraft.
Read more about what Bogdan had to say about the status of the F-35 program at Military.com.