Canada looking at data in fighter jet purchase: Boeing executive

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is assessing data from bidders to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets, a Boeing Co executive said on Monday.

The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago, in this April 24, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

The country’s Liberal government promised during last year’s election that it would launch an open competition to replace Canada’s CF-18 fighter aircraft.

It pledged not to buy Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 jets, as the previous Conservative government had planned to do, calling them expensive and unnecessary.

While the government has yet to release details on such a competition, it requested data this summer from five companies that have fighter aircraft in production or planned production, including Lockheed and Boeing, which wants Canada to buy its F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.

The government sought up-to-date information on areas including capabilities and economic benefits.

“The focus on data was very clear, very strong,” said Marc Allen, president of Boeing International, the unit which handles Boeing’s strategy and operations outside the United States. “It gave all of the suppliers a chance to set down in black and white what it is their platform does.”

Since then, Boeing has been engaged in a “ping-pong” set of questions and answers with the government, said Allen.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has said the government foresees a growing capability gap in the 2020s and that there is an urgent need to replace the CF-18s.

“They know it’s imperative to solve that capability gap,” said Allen. “They are moving in a way that says they understand that.”

Allen said ordinarily it can take multiple years from when an order is placed to when jets are delivered.

The other potential fighter jet suppliers are Saab AB, Dassault Aviation SA, and the Eurofighter consortium , which includes Airbus Group.

As Boeing campaigns to win the contract, it is citing the work opportunities that would be available to Canadian firms across the country if the federal government were to purchase the Super Hornet.

Allen did not rule out giving work to struggling planemaker Bombardier Inc, noting that Boeing always works with its competitors.

“We’re not going to rule out anybody from the perspective of who would be a good partner,” he said.

Boeing earlier this month formally challenged a decision by the Danish government to pick the F-35 fighter jet over the Super Hornet, citing a flawed evaluation process.

Allen said that was a very particular circumstance and that Canada’s process was calibrated to ensure an accurate analysis.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Bill Rigby