Amidst reports that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stands at an advantage in Canada’s fighter aircraft competition, the Canadian MoD has issued a document stating “all procurement options are being considered,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was quoted as saying by the Globe and Mail earlier this month.
Canada has issued a request for information to Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Saab, Dassault and Eurofighter earlier this month seeking information by the end of July in order to design an acquisition process to replace the Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 fighters.
The Department of National Defence predicts that its fleet of CF-18s will be able to fly into the next decade, even as Sajjan ramps up his calls for an urgent purchase of new fighter jets to ward off an eventual “capability loss.”
Sajjan said that the Canadian Forces have adopted a risk-management strategy to deal with the scarcity of available aircraft, and he wants to put an end to the practice. Because of maintenance issues, he said, only about half the fleet of 77 fighter jets is available at any given time.
“Some aircraft will be retired beginning in 2023. Over all, the Canadian Armed Forces are working to “extend the fleet to 2025 as part of a series of upgrades,” said a document provided at the start of this month to the five aircraft manufacturers.
Conservative MP James Bezan said the government seems to be looking for a way to fulfill its promise to buy an aircraft other than Lockheed Martin’s F-35. “This is about setting the narrative to go to a sole-source [acquisition of Super Hornets],” he said.
Bezan said the government could simply launch an open competition and quickly obtain the best product for the Canadian Forces at the best price for taxpayers.
“There’s no question that planes are available,” he said, explaining that both Super Hornets and F-35s are currently in production. “They can go through this very methodically and still come to the right decision, rather than try to rig the process.”
The government sent a 38-page questionnaire last week to five aircraft manufacturers that are in the running to replace the CF-18s.
The acquisition process will be unveiled as early as September. The questions include acquisition and life-cycle costs, current and planned production numbers, and potential industrial and technological benefits for Canada.
The new competition comes after Canada decided not to buy the F-35 citing excessive costs. Its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin has said Canadian jobs could suffer as it would withdraw work related to the F-35 being performed in Canada following Ottawa’s cancellation of the F-35 procurement.