UPDATE 1-Canada to evaluate fighter-jet options over next several weeks

Thu Apr 17, 2014 1:26pm EDT
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(Adds comments from minister, lists Lockheed competitors, adds background from paragraph 4)

By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA, April 17 (Reuters) - The Canadian government will take several more weeks to evaluate its options for the much-delayed replacement of the country's CF-18 fighter jets, Public Works Minister Diane Finley said on Thursday.

The decision boils down to whether to proceed with a single-source contract to Lockheed Martin Corp for 65 F-35 stealth fighters or to go with a tender that opens up the bidding to competitors.

The Conservative government ran into a storm of criticism over its decision in 2010 to go with the F-35s without an open tender. It then froze that decision and has been talking to other aircraft makers as well.

"Over the next several weeks we will be carefully reviewing a number of reports relating to the evaluation of options, industrial benefits, costs and other factors related to the decision to replace our CF-18 fleet," Finley said in the prepared text of a speech she was giving in British Columbia.

Lockheed Martin and three other companies have filled out initial reports, something short of formal bids, to the government on the capabilities and costs of their aircraft:

- Boeing Co, which makes the F-18 Super Hornet

- Dassault Aviation, which makes the Rafale   Continued...