Canada to buy fewer F-35 fighters than thought

OTTAWA, May 12 (Reuters) - The Canadian government said on Monday it would buy 65 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, a figure lower than the 80 planes that had widely circulated in the media.

“One of the reasons there will be fewer of the new fighters is we anticipate the new fighters will have significantly greater capacity than existing fighters,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a news conference.

He was speaking in Nova Scotia as he unveiled what he called the Canada First Defence Strategy, involving C$30 billion ($30 billion) in projected new military spending for the next 20 years.

The F-35s will replace Canada’s CF-18s, which are scheduled to reach the end of their working lives in 2017-20. Canada bought 138 of them in the 1980s and now has 98, 80 of which are being refurbished.

Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N will make the F-35s. The Joint Strike Fighter program is being funded by the United States, Canada and seven other countries.

$1=$1.00 Canadian Reporting by Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway