OTTAWA/MONTREAL (Reuters) - Airbus SE (AIR.PA) could cooperate further with Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO) beyond a recent venture in the CSeries jets, if its fighter jet is permitted to compete in a Canadian military procurement, and its partners agree, an executive said on Wednesday.
Canada said last year it will launch an open competition to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets and a request for proposal for the open competition is expected in 2019.
Dirk Hoke, chief executive of Airbus Defense and Space, said the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet could be an option for further collaboration with Bombardier, although he did not specify further.
“We will definitely also look at additional potential further cooperation with Bombardier beyond just the CSeries,” Hoke told Reuters on the sidelines of an Ottawa aerospace conference, adding that he was “very optimistic and positive about us entering this competition.”
Airbus last month agreed to take a majority stake in Bombardier’s CSeries jets program, bolstering the Canadian plane’s sales and giving it a possible way out of a damaging trade dispute with Boeing Co (BA.N) and U.S. regulators.
The CSeries trade dispute has muddied a potential interim military contract between Boeing and Canada for 18 Super Hornet fighter jets, creating new opportunities for rivals like Airbus, Dassault Aviation SA (AVMD.PA) and Lockheed Martin(LMT.N).
Boeing and Canada had initially discussed purchasing the fighters as a stop-gap measure while the country prepared an open five-year competition to replace its aging fleet of 77 Boeing CF-18 fighter jets. Canada has halted talks with Boeing because of the dispute.
Hoke said Airbus is not considering jumping into the interim bid for fighter jets and is waiting to see the specifics from the Canadian government on the open competition.
“Right now, we have a very positive feeling about it but of course we have to see ... what (are) the specifications that have been finally defined and confirmed.”
In 2016, Canada selected Airbus C295W aircraft for its fixed-wing search and rescue program, estimated at C$3 billion ($2.36 billion).
Boeing has accused Bombardier of receiving illegal subsidies and dumping the CSeries at “absurdly low” prices in the U.S. market to win a key April 2016 order from Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N). The U.S. Commerce Department has notched up proposed trade duties on U.S. sales of CSeries jets at nearly 300 percent, in a case that will be decided next year at the International Trade Commission.
Reporting By Leah Schnurr and Allison Lampert. Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama