Canada says wants to move fast on jet contest, gives no details

Wed Jul 13, 2016 6:22pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren and Andrea Shalal

OTTAWA/FARNBOROUGH, England (Reuters) - Canada said on Wednesday it wanted to move quickly to buy a new fleet of fighter jets but gave no details, leaving major questions about what plane Ottawa will buy as well as how and when.

The previous Conservative government announced in 2010 it would buy Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 to replace Canada's aging CF-18s but later scrapped the decision.

Subsequent efforts to choose a plane stalled and the Liberal government, which took power last November, says it wants to start again.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told reporters on Wednesday there was "an urgent need" to replace the CF-18s, saying a decision on how to proceed would be made within months. He gave no details.

Late last week the government sent out a detailed questionnaire to five potential suppliers and asked them to reply by July 29.

"No decision has been made at this time and all procurement options are being considered," said the document, which was seen by Reuters.

U.S. and European industry sources said the July 29 deadline was very tight by defense procurement standards, adding they did not know what Ottawa intended to do with the results of the questionnaire.

One option is unveiling an open competition - which a European industry source said "would cost millions" to participate in - while another is announcing a sole-source order for one of the jets.   Continued...

A Canadian Armed Forces CF-18 Fighter jets arrive at the Canadian Air Task Force Flight Operations Area in Kuwait on October 28, 2014 in this Canadian Forces handout photo received October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND/Handout