OTTAWA — The federal government has confirmed that Boeing’s Super Hornet fighter jet is out of the race to replace Canada’s CF-18s.
Public Services and Procurement Canada’s official announcement comes nearly a week after the Canadian press first reported that Boeing was told that its bid for a $19-billion fighter jet contract did not meet Canada’s requirements.
The government declined to comment publicly at the time, including whether the US aerospace giant was out of competition.
But the department confirmed in a statement Wednesday that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter and the Swedish Saab Gripen are the only two fighters still in dispute.
The statement did not explain why Boeing’s offer was not cut.
Bidders were required to demonstrate that their fighter jet was capable of meeting the military’s requirements for missions at home and abroad, and that winning the contract would bring substantial economic benefits to Canada.
The news that one or more of the two US companies competing for the contract failed to meet the requirements is the latest twist in an already long and often unpredictable road toward replacing Canada’s CF-18s.
While Public Services and Procurement Canada says it will finalize the next steps in the competition in the coming weeks, it insists it is still hoping to award a contract for the first new fighter jets to arrive by 2025. Is.
Many observers saw the Super Hornet and the F-35 as the only real competition due to Canada’s close relationship with the United States, which involves using fighters together to defend North American aerospace on a daily basis. .
Those assumptions were kicked out of competition by only two other European companies before they started, complaining of government requirements stacking the decks in favor of their American rivals.
Sweden is not a member of NATO or the joint Canadian-American Defense Command known as NORAD, which is responsible for protecting the continent from foreign threats. This raised questions about the Gripen’s compatibility with American aircraft.
There have long been concerns in some corners that the entire competition has been set up from the outset to select the F-35, which is being bought by many of Canada’s closest allies.
Canada first joined the US and other allies as a partner in developing the F-35 in 1997 and has since paid US$613 million to stay on the table. Partners get discounts when they buy jets and compete for billions of dollars in contracts related to their construction and maintenance.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative government committed to buy 65 F-35s without competition in 2010, before concerns about the stealth fighter’s cost and capabilities returned it to the drawing board.
The Liberals promised in 2015 that they would not buy the F-35s, but instead launch an open competition to replace the CF-18s. They later planned to purchase 18 Super Hornets without a competition as an “interim” measure to ensure Canada had enough aircraft until permanent replacements could be purchased.
Some at the time questioned that plan, suggesting that the Liberals were trying to find a way to lock Canada into the Super Hornet without opening themselves up to legal challenge from Lockheed Martin or any of the other jet makers.
But the government scrapped the plan after Boeing began a trade dispute with Montreal aerospace firm Bombardier over the C-series aircraft. It later fined firms seeking a federal contract that have started a trade dispute with Canada.
Meanwhile, the government has been forced to invest hundreds of millions of additional dollars in the CF-18 fleet until a replacement can be delivered. The government has said it plans to name a winner in the coming months, with the first aircraft to be delivered in 2025.
The final plane isn’t going to arrive until 2032, at which point CF-18s will have been around for 50 years.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 1, 2021.