TORONTO — Canada has selected Lockheed Martin’s F-35 as the preferred offering in the country’s competition to buy a new fighter jet, government officials said Monday.

Canada plans to buy 88 new fighter jets to replace its CF-18s. The government has budgeted about CA$19 billion (U.S. $15 billion) for the purchase.

Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi said Lockheed was deemed to be the top-ranked bidder.

Delivery of the first aircraft would be scheduled for 2025 if an agreement is reached. If an agreement is not reached, the government has the option to enter into talks with Saab, whose Gripen fighter came second to the F-35 in the competition.

Lockheed Martin is an American company, and Canada has a close relationship with the United States. The neighbors use fighter jets together to defend North American airspace.

Canada previously ruled out Boeing’s Super Hornet in the competition.

A former Conservative Canadian government previously announced the purchase of the F-35, but the current Liberal government delayed that purchase and opened up the bidding to competition. Tassi said Canada will get a better deal now.

Before becoming prime minister, Justin Trudeau said Canada wouldn’t buy the F-35.

Defence Minister Anita Anand has said the decision to pick the F-35 was done without political interference. “We’re living in a new reality,” she said, referring to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

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