Canadian military

Aldergrove plays key role in building new stealth fighter jets

Aldergrove-based company's share of contracts for F-35 stealth fighter jets is providing more than two years of work for 65 employees

An Aldergrove-based company’s share of the international contracts for the new F-35 stealth fighter jets is providing more than two years of work for 65 employees at Advanced Integration Technology’s plant here.

AIT Canada designs, engineers and manufactures custom aerospace equipment used throughout the world. And in partnership with Lockheed Martin, AIT Canada is building the automated alignment systems that will ensure all of the new F35 jet airframes are built to exacting specifications.

On Thursday morning, representatives of Canada’s government and military toured the AIT plant in Aldergrove for a first-hand look at the work being done here.

Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino said the $200 million that the federal government has invested so far in the Joint Strike Fighter program has “resulted in $370 million in contracts for Canadian business and research institutions.”

Fantino said the first complete system built by AIT is already in use at a Fort Worth, Texas production line and the next one will be shipped to Italy.

AIT spokesman Steve Taylor Lewis said four will be built in total, with the final one set for delivery in 2013.

“This is welcome news for Aldergrove because it supports skilled local jobs and reinforces the value of our technological expertise,” said Langley MP Mark Warawa.

More than 100 F-35s will be built in the 30-year international JSF program, with Canada expecting delivery of its first F-35 jet in 2016.

“AIT’s success is not only good for Aldergrove, the stealth fighter will enable the military to do its job effectively and give the pilots the best chances of returning home,” said Fantino.

Major James Kettles has logged over 2,400 hours in the CF-18 jets, including 52 combat missions over Libya, and said he is “looking forward to the first F-35s. The CF-18 has been a spectacular race horse, but the old girl is getting tired.”

The Canadian government has not yet determined the exact number of F-35 jets it will acquire, said Fantino, but he noted that the CF-18 will be closing in on 40 years of service when the first F-35s come into service.

Fantino said the government is still working on the number of jets it will eventually purchase but said Canada “will be in the most advantageous situation regarding all of the issues and economics.

“Canada is not simply acquiring a fighter jet — we are a partner in a multi-national effort with our allies to develop and field a fighter jet suited for the 21st century.”