Canada talks to bidders to map out fighter jet competition

Fri Jul 8, 2016 7:03pm EDT
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By Tim Hepher and Andrea Shalal

RAF FAIRFORD, England (Reuters) - Canada talked to potential bidders on Thursday to map out next steps in a protracted effort to replace an aging fleet of CF-18 fighter jets built by Boeing, industry and government officials said on Friday.

Defense ministry spokesman Evan Koronewski said Ottawa would assess its options over the summer, in part to determine if Canada needed to purchase all 65 jets it initially planned.

Representatives of Boeing, Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin and Saab took part in a conference call with Canadian agencies on Thursday, a second government spokesman said.

France's Dassault did not take part but expressed interest in meeting with Canadian officials next week at the Farnborough International Airshow outside London, he said.

Koronewski said the government would consider issues such as cost, delivery times, readiness, interoperability with North American Aerospace Defense Command and economic benefits.

Boeing wants Canada to buy its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which is nearing the end of production, instead of the Lockheed F-35 fighter that was backed by the previous Conservative government.

Canada paid to help develop the F-35, and many Canadian firms produce parts for the plane, but those orders could disappear if Ottawa opts for a rival, since countries that order jets are entitled to industrial participation in the program.

Canada's ruling Liberals government vowed during the 2015 election campaign to ban the F-35 from a new competition, though officials have since softened their stance. Lockheed has said it could shift nearly $1 billion in orders from Canadian firms if Ottawa quit the program.   Continued...

Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets depart after refueling with a  KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron over Iraq October 30, 2014. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/Handout via Reuters