Exclusive: Canada seen buying fighter jets from U.S., not Europe - source

Thu Sep 4, 2014 7:14pm EDT
 
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By Randall Palmer, David Ljunggren and Andrea Shalal

OTTAWA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Canada is likely to choose between two major U.S. firms when it buys a new fleet of jet fighters, excluding two European competitors, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 stealth fighter and Boeing Co's F-18 E/F Super Hornet were deemed more suitable for the variety of tasks the military has laid out.

The source said that while the F-35 had scored well on the various tests laid out by the military, the Super Hornet was almost as capable and had the advantage of being cheaper.

If so, the choice would mean the widely expected elimination of Dassault Aviation SA's Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon, jointly made by BAE Systems PLC, Finmeccanica SpA and Airbus Group NV.

The fighter selection has proven enormously problematic for Canada's Conservative government, which in 2012 scrapped a sole-sourced plan to buy 65 F-35s for C$9 billion ($8.3 billion) after a parliamentary watchdog savaged the decision.

Ottawa then set up a special secretariat to compare the merits of the four contenders. It is deciding whether to hold a competition or go ahead with the initial plan to buy F-35s, which could prompt accusations that it was acting in bad faith.

The secretariat was not asked to make a recommendation about which jet to buy, but the new revelations will likely bolster the increasing conviction in Ottawa and Washington that the F-35 remains the front runner.

Richard Aboulafia, analyst with Virginia-based Teal Group, said further delays in a Canadian decision could push any possible order beyond the order window that Boeing would need to maintain the Super Hornet line, now slated to close in 2017.   Continued...

 
An F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter takes off on a training sortie at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida in this March 6, 2012 file photo.   REUTERS/U.S. Air Force photo/Randy Gon/Handout