U.S. expects F-35 to be part of Canada's next jet competition

Sat Nov 21, 2015 12:53pm EST
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By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON Nov 21 (Reuters) - The Pentagon expects the new Canadian government to allow Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter aircraft to compete to replace Canada's aging CF-18 jets, despite the Liberal Party's stated opposition to the planes, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said on Saturday.

But Work cautioned after talks in Canada that how the fledgling government sets its requirements for the competition would ultimately determine what jet the country gets.

"I think they're going to have another full and open competition. I think the F-35 will be part of that but the requirements from the competition may change. We don't know," Work told reporters traveling with him back from Canada.

Work's comments came a day after Canada's new Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, in an interview with Reuters, said it would be "premature" to talk about the F-35 or any aircraft that might or might not be able to replace the CF-18.

"I'm focused on the requirements that we need ... as a nation that works with our allies as well, with NATO and our NORAD commitments," Sajjan said, referring to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

A decision not to go with the F-35 could raise the prospects for Boeing Co's F/A-18E/F fighters.

Work said he only sounded out Sajjan when the two met in Halifax, Nova Scotia, adding: "I wasn't here to put any pressure on."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shook up his election campaign and the aerospace industry with his Sept. 20 announcement that he would not buy F-35s. He said he expected this to yield savings, which he would apply to naval ships.   Continued...