(Adds comments from minister, lists Lockheed competitors, adds
background from paragraph 4)
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA, April 17 The Canadian government will
take several more weeks to evaluate its options for the
much-delayed replacement of the country's CF-18 fighter jets,
Public Works Minister Diane Finley said on Thursday.
The decision boils down to whether to proceed with a
single-source contract to Lockheed Martin Corp for 65
F-35 stealth fighters or to go with a tender that opens up the
bidding to competitors.
The Conservative government ran into a storm of criticism
over its decision in 2010 to go with the F-35s without an open
tender. It then froze that decision and has been talking to
other aircraft makers as well.
"Over the next several weeks we will be carefully 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 said in the
prepared text of a speech she was giving in British Columbia.
Lockheed Martin and three other companies have filled out
initial reports, something short of formal bids, to the
government on the capabilities and costs of their aircraft:
- Boeing Co, which makes the F-18 Super Hornet
- Dassault Aviation, which makes the Rafale
- The Eurofighter Typhoon consortium, which includes BAE
Systems , Airbus Group and Italy's
The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) evaluated the different
fighters under the eye of an independent panel of experts, which
Finley said ensures that the RCAF's review was "both rigorous
Cabinet ministers including Finley and Defence Minister Rob
Nicholson will now consider how to proceed.
"Let me say, first and foremost, that in our consideration
of the work that has been done by the RCAF and the panel, we
will ensure that the Canadian Forces have the equipment that
they need to do the work that we ask of them," Finley said.
The question of what the military needs is delicate. The
main reason the government had opted for the F-35s without an
open competition was that the air force had determined that
fifth-generation stealth capabilities were crucial and that only
the F-35 had them.
That assumption is now being reexamined, and the independent
review panel even asked the government to include as one of its
options a further extension of the life of the CF-18s, which
were brought into service in the 1980s.
Ottawa has set aside C$9 billion ($8.2 billion) to buy the
new jets, and had said it would cost a further C$16 billion to
operate and maintain the F-35s over 20 years. Auditor General
Michael Ferguson said in a scathing report in April 2012 that
officials had downplayed the full life-cycle costs of the
(Editing by Peter Galloway)