UPDATE 1-Lockheed welcomes Canada shift toward 'more choices' for fighters

Thu Jul 7, 2016 8:44pm EDT
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(Adds details on Canadian government fighter jet policy)

RAF FAIRFORD, England, July 7 (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp on Thursday welcomed comments suggesting that Canada would open a new competition for replacing its current fleet of aging CF-18 Hornets, instead of simply buying Boeing Co F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to meet its needs.

Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told the Globe and Mail newspaper the government would change requirements for the new fighter jets, announced by the previous government, to allow for "more choices."

His comments in an interview published on Thursday raised hopes that Canada could start a fresh competition, including the F-35.

Canada helped fund development of the F-35 fighter, but the Liberal government, which took power in late 2015, promised during its campaign in last year's election that it would not buy F-35 jets. This led to reports it would buy Super Hornets and forgo a competition.

Canadian officials have since softened their tone.

On Wednesday, the Canadian government said that over the summer, its officials will be consulting all interested aircraft suppliers to help it decide on options for replacing its fighter jets.

"That information will inform a decision on a procurement path in the coming months," Sajjan said in a speech.

Asked by reporters on Wednesday if Canada was going ahead with the competition, Sajjan did not directly answer.   Continued...