Replacement of CF-18s | The Boeing fighter excluded from the race?

(Ottawa) The federal government has warned Boeing that its bid to replace aging CF-18s with a new fleet of Super Hornet fighter jets did not meet its requirements.

Three industry and government sources said the news was passed to the US manufacturer on Wednesday. The other two companies vying for the $ 19 billion deal – US defense giant Lockheed Martin and Swedish company Saab – have learned they meet the Canadian government’s demands.

Companies interested in this contract had to demonstrate that their fighter aircraft could meet the requirements of Canadian aviation for missions at home and abroad. But they also had to demonstrate that winning the contract would generate substantial economic benefits for the Canadian aerospace industry.

The Department of National Defense and Public Services and Procurement Canada, which manages the tender on behalf of the federal government, did not respond to requests for comment on the matter Thursday.

The news that one of the two U.S. companies vying for the contract has failed to meet one or more of these requirements is the latest chapter in what has already been a long, often unpredictable, saga towards replacing old Canadian CF-18s.

Although Boeing’s failure to meet the requirements appears to disqualify the Super Hornet from competition, leaving only the F-35 and Saab’s Gripen fighter jet in the running, neither of these companies have been officially informed by Ottawa. whether or not she was still in the race.

All three sources requested anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matters publicly.

A Boeing spokesperson said the company would reserve its comments pending official notification from the Canadian government.

The compatible Saab device?

Many observers viewed Boeing’s Super Hornet and Lockheed’s F-35 as the only two real contenders in this race, due to Canada’s close relationship with the United States, which includes the use of jet fighter jets. concert to defend North American airspace.

These perceptions were only magnified after two other European companies abandoned the competition before it even began, complaining that government demands had stacked the dice in favor of their American rivals.

Sweden is not a member of NATO or the Canada-U.S. Joint Defense Command known as Norad, which is responsible for protecting the continent from foreign threats. This raised questions about the compatibility of the Gripen device with American planes.

While Boeing’s failure to meet the requirements is surprising, it could also reinforce the government’s claims that it is organizing a fair and impartial competition to replace the CF-18s, defense analyst David Perry said. Canadian Institute of Global Affairs.

“This indicates that this was genuinely a competitive government market, and Canada had put a lot of effort into making sure that was the case,” he said.

Mr. Perry added, “There has been a lot of speculation as to whether a non-US fighter could actually be a real competitor, given Canada’s requirements for interoperability with the United States. If it is still in the race, Saab has certainly met this criterion. ”

Still, Jeff Collins, a military procurement expert at the University of Prince Edward Island, said long-standing concerns remained with some who believe the entire competition was in place as early as start to select the F-35.

Choosing another fighter, he added, would represent a major departure from Canada’s closest allies, the majority of whom buy the F-35.

Canada first joined the United States and other allies as a partner in the development of the F-35 in 1997 and has since paid US $ 613 million to stay at the table. Partners get a discount when purchasing the jets and compete for billions of dollars in contracts associated with their construction and maintenance.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government pledged to purchase 65 F-35s without a competition in 2010, before concerns about the cost and capabilities of the stealth fighter forced it back to the drawing board.

The Liberals promised in 2015 not to buy the F-35s, but rather to launch an open competition to replace the CF-18s. They later said they planned to buy 18 Super Hornets without a competition as a “stopgap” measure to ensure Canada has enough planes until permanent replacements can be purchased.

Some at the time questioned that plan, suggesting the Liberals were trying to find a way to tie Canada’s hands to the Super Hornet without exposing themselves to legal challenge from Lockheed Martin or any other aircraft maker. .

But the government canceled the plan after Boeing launched a trade dispute with Montreal aerospace company Bombardier over the latter’s C-series planes. He later introduced a penalty for companies seeking a federal contract that started a trade dispute with Canada.

Mr Collins questioned whether the so-called ‘Boeing Clause’ played a role in fighter jet competition, although officials previously said this was not a factor as the dispute has been resolved in favor of Bombardier in 2018.

Meanwhile, the government has been forced to invest hundreds of millions of additional dollars in the CF-18 fleet to keep it in service until a replacement can be delivered. The government has announced its intention to nominate a winner in the coming months, with a first aircraft delivered in 2025.

The last plane is not expected to arrive before 2032; by then the CF-18s will have been in operation for 50 years.

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