F-35 still in the running to replace CF-18s?

A pilot positions a CF-18 Hornet at the CFB Cold Lake, in Cold Lake, Alberta on Tuesday October 21, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

OTTAWA – Canada’s defence minister has signalled that the F-35 will not be excluded from the forthcoming competition to replace the air force’s aging fleet of fighter jets.

One of the new Liberal government’s main campaign pledges was to buy a less expensive aircraft and plow the savings from the stealth fighter program into the navy.

But Harjit Sajjan says he is focused on finding the best aircraft to replace the country’s CF-18 jets before they reach the end of their useful service life.

WATCH: Ottawa still committed to withdrawing CF-18s says Sajjan

Speaking on a conference call from Iraq, he said was asked twice whether the F-35 is being excluded from the open competition the Liberals plan to run and in each case he ducked the question.

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Sajjan did say that the military is reviewing the basic requirements for the fighter, a document that is steeped in controversy since a scathing auditor general’s report forced the Harper government to put the $44 billion program on hold.

Michael Ferguson’s 2012 investigation found that the statement of requirements, an important document that sets out what the military needs in a piece of equipment, was written after the Conservative government had signalled its intention to buy the F-35.

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