UPDATE 1-Canada signals decision on replacing jet fighters may come soon
(Adds comments by government minister in charge of procurement)
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA May 29 (Reuters) - Canada signaled on Thursday it is likely to make a decision soon on whether to replace its aging CF-18 fighter jets with F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp or hold an open competition among aircraft makers.
Public Works Minister Diane Finley said on Thursday the Conservative government will finish its review of reports on how to replace its jet fighters in the coming weeks.
After running into a storm of criticism, the Conservative government pressed the reset button in 2012 on its original plan to buy 65 F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin for C$9 billion ($8.3 billion) without holding an open tender.
The government has since invited other manufacturers to provide details on their fighters, and the Royal Canadian Air Force alongside an independent four-member panel has evaluated the various options.
"Over the next few weeks, ministers will finish reviewing a number of reports relating to the evaluation of options, industrial benefits, costs and other factors," Finley told a defense trade show.
The central question is whether to hold a competitive tender or to buy the F-35 because it is the only plane that can meet the military's needs.
Pressed by reporters as to when the government would decide what to do, Finley said Ottawa would first review the report and then see if it had any more questions. Continued...