OTTAWA May 29 Canada signaled on Thursday it is
likely to make a decision in the next few weeks on whether to
replace its aging CF-18 fighter jets with F-35 stealth fighters
from Lockheed Martin Corp or hold an open competition
among aircraft makers.
Public Works Minister Diane Finley said on Thursday the
Conservative government will finish its review of reports on how
to replace its jet fighters in the coming weeks. Her spokesman,
Marcel Poulin, said both a government decision on how to proceed
and the release of the review are likely to come in that period.
After running into a storm of criticism, the Conservative
government pressed the reset button in 2012 on its original plan
to buy 65 F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp
for C$9 billion ($8.3 billion) without holding an open
The government has since invited other manufacturers to
provide details on their fighters, and the Royal Canadian Air
Force alongside an independent four-member panel has evaluated
the various options.
"Over the next few weeks, ministers will finish reviewing a
number of reports relating to the evaluation of options,
industrial benefits, costs and other factors related to the
decision to replace our CF-18 fleet," Finley told a defense
trade show, adding that a report on the evaluation would be made
The central question is whether to hold a competitive tender
or to return to the original decision to buy the F-35 because it
is the only plane that has the advanced capabilities required to
meet the military's needs.
The F-35 is billed as the only fighter that can avoid radar
detection, and advocates say participation in its manufacturing
program will allow Canadians to bid on supplying components for
the thousands of F-35s to be bought around the world.
The Conservatives' opponents had slammed the decision not to
hold a tender to replace the CF-18s, which came into service in
the 1980s, and the government's spending watchdog said the
decision to buy the F-35s had been based on bad data from
officials who had downplayed the costs and risks.
Lockheed's competitors point out that an F-35 has only one
engine, which can be dicey if the engine fails when flying over
the Arctic. And they promise guaranteed industrial benefits
within Canada if their planes are picked.
The three competitors are:
- The F-18E/F Super Hornet, made by Boeing Co. It is
a proven aircraft used heavily by the United States, but the
flip side is Boeing may stop making them in the next few years.
Boeing's counter on that is that the United States and Australia
will still be flying them for decades and Boeing will still
- The Rafale, made by Dassault Aviation SA. France
has used it in or over Afghanistan, Libya and Mali, but no
country outside of France has bought the plane.
- The Eurofighter Typhoon, built by BAE Systems Plc
, Airbus Group NV and Italy's Finmeccanica SpA
. More than 390 have been delivered to Germany,
Britain, Italy, Spain, Austria and Saudi Arabia.
(Editing by Peter Galloway)