Canada, cool on the F-35, says Lockheed jet still an option

Mon Dec 12, 2016 6:07pm EST
 
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By David Ljunggren and Leah Schnurr

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will still consider Lockheed Martin Inc's (LMT.N: Quote) F-35 in an open competition for fighter jets, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday, despite domestic and foreign criticism about the program's cost.

Earlier on Monday, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said the cost of Lockheed's F-35 program was "out of control."

A source familiar with the fighter jet replacement effort said Canadian officials found Trump's remark interesting but were not drawing too many conclusions.

"Because the president-elect sends a tweet, is the price a couple of years from now of an F-35 really going to be dramatically different?" said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Canada's ruling Liberals won an election last year on a promise not to buy F-35s because the planes were too expensive. Trudeau told Parliament that the former Conservative government had "clung to a plane that does not work and is far from being able to work."

But the Liberal government has since softened its position and said this year that all suppliers could bid to replace its aging fighter CF-18 jet fleet.

Still, Canada snubbed Lockheed last month when it unveiled plans to buy 18 Boeing Corp (BA.N: Quote) Super Hornets as a stop-gap measure while it started the fighter jet competition over again. Officials said the contest could take five years.

"It's an open and transparent competition we're going to be engaged in and the various aircraft and aircraft producers will have an opportunity to make their best case," Trudeau told a news conference when asked whether Canada might be more likely to opt for the F-35 if the costs fell.   Continued...

 
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau  in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie