TORONTO — The Canadian government has selected Lockheed Martin and the F-35 as the preferred bidder in its 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 $19 billion Canadian (U.S. $15 billion) for the purchase

Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi said Lockheed Martin 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.

Canada has a close relationship with the United States, which includes using fighter jets together to defend North American air space.

Canada previously ruled out Boeing’s Super Hornet.

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.

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

Defense Minister Anita Anand said the decision to pick the F-35 was done without political interference.

“We’re living in a new reality,” Anand said in reference to Russia’s war in Ukraine.