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'65 is not enough,' minister suggests larger fighter jet purchase

Last Updated Nov 25, 2016 at 5:19 pm EST

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan attends a news conference on fighter jets in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The federal defence minister is suggesting the Trudeau government is prepared to buy more fighter jets than what was discussed under the Harper Conservatives.

The previous government had long planned to buy 65 F-35 fighter jets, at a price tag of about $9-billion, to replace our aging fleet of 77 CF-18’s.

But in an interview, which will air this weekend on our talk show Maclean’s on the Hill, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan calls the Conservative number ‘fictitious.’

“It does not meet the needs of what we are trying to accomplish, especially to meet our obligations, our NATO and NORAD obligations,” Sajjan says.

“The number 65 that was given was not based on a thorough analysis. In my opinion it was probably based on, they gave out a cost number and then they dwindled it down to a certain number. Sixty-five is not enough to meet our needs. When we present our defence policy the exact number will be presented to Canadians.”

The Liberal government is currently conducting a defence policy review with the military, the results of which are expected early in the new year.

This comes just days after the Liberal government announced it would begin talks with Boeing to purchase 18 Super Hornet jets as an interim measure to fill in a capability gap in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Beginning next year the government will launch a 5-year open competition to fully replace our fleet. The Super Hornet and the F-35 are expected to be the two main options, despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promising during the election that he would not buy the F-35.

Opposition critics accuse the Liberals of fixing the competition, claiming the sole sourcing of the interim Super Hornets is a signal of which plane they will buy.

But in his interview Minister Sajjan left the door open to having a mixed fleet.

The interview will air in full this weekend on Maclean’s on the Hill.