October 26, 2015 / 10:30 PM / 2 years ago

Canada Liberals to start fighter competition afresh

Canada's Liberal leader and Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau leaves at the conclusion of a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s incoming Liberal government intends to completely restart the competition for fighter jets to replace its aging CF-18s, rather than relying on the proposals already made under the outgoing Conservatives, a Liberal source said on Monday.

He said the Liberals, who declared during their successful election campaign that they would not buy Lockheed Martin Corp’s (LMT.N) F-35 stealth fighters, would put out a new “request for proposals,” with a redesigned list of what the new planes will be required to do.

“We’re going to put together the requirements we have for aircraft,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I don’t think we trust the (Conservative) government’s requirements.”

The Liberals take power on Nov. 4, when the new ministers of defense and public works will be named.

Ruling out the F-35 left open the theoretical possibility of going ahead with the best of the remaining contenders on the basis of the bids already submitted, but the source made clear the new government would instead hit the reset button.

This means it could take years to make a choice. The source said he expected the decision would be made within the first term of Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau, which ends in October 2019.

A leading contender has always been considered to be Boeing Co’s (BA.N) F/A-18E/F fighters, but they are expected to end production by 2019, possibly earlier, so Canada would need to move relatively fast if it wanted those.

Boeing and Lockheed lobbyists have often referred to the benefit of having planes used by the United States, for interoperability, but the Liberal source said different allied planes operate together without big problems.

Trudeau shook up the campaign and the aerospace industry with his Sept. 20 announcement that he would not buy F-35s. He said he expected this to yield savings, which he would apply to naval ships.

The other contenders in the Conservative government’s competition were Dassault Aviation SA’s (AVMD.PA) Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon - jointly made by BAE Systems PLC (BAES.L), Finmeccanica SpA SIFI.MI and Airbus Group (AIR.PA).

Trudeau had also named Saab AB’s Gripen (SAABb.ST) as a potential contender, even though the Swedish firm had already effectively ruled itself out of the current competition.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Ken Wills

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