The Canadian government has ordered an “open and transparent competition to replace the CH-18 fighter aircraft focusing on options that match Canada's defence needs.”
According to the text of a mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to his defence minister Harjit Sajjan on Friday made public in the Canadian media, the latter has been asked to work with the minister of public services and procurement to go through with the bidding process.
This means Canada has officially scrapped the procurement of the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters and instead could send out bidding requests to several manufacturers (perhaps including Lockheed Martin).
France has already offered its Rafale aircraft for the Canadian fighter replacement program soon after it became known that the new government in Ottawa was looking for a cheaper alternative to the F-35. Others in the reckoning could be Boeing’s F/A-18 which could stand at an advantage as the existing Canadian CF-18 fighter aircraft were procured from the erstwhile McDonnell Douglas which has since merged with Boeing.
Canada had joined the F-35 stealth fighter program in 1997 to buy 65 aircraft for Can$44.8 billion ($33.6 billion) besides investing US$ 150 million in the program. Canadian companies are included in the parts and equipment eco-system of the F-35 which means they get to supply to other operators of the F-35.
However, what appears to have tilted the balance against the F-35 is the high upfront and life cycle costs besides the delay in developing the aircraft and the expensive fixing of recurring technical issues.