Boeing stays in race to supply Canada with fighter jets: sources

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Boeing Co, locked in a trade dispute with the Canadian government, has applied to stay in the race to supply Canada with 88 new fighter jets, three well-placed sources said on Thursday.

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Companies had until Feb. 9 to express an interest in taking part in a competition for planes worth between C$15 billion ($12.1 billion) and C$19 billion. Ottawa will release its specifications next year, at which point firms can bid.

Boeing did let Canada know it was interested, said the sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The decision does not mean the firm will necessarily put forward its F-18 Super Hornet.

Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. aerospace company infuriated the Canadian government last year by launching a trade challenge against planemaker Bombardier Inc <BBDb.TO, accusing it of dumping airliners in the American market.

Although a U.S. trade commission dismissed the complaint on Jan. 26, Boeing can still appeal the decision or launch another complaint against the Canadian firm.

Well-informed sources said last week Ottawa has made clear to Boeing that its chances of winning the 88-jet deal would be harmed if it pursued the Bombardier case.

Defense experts say Lockheed Martin Corp’s new F-35 stealth fighter is likely the front runner. Dassault Aviation SA and Airbus SE also are expected to compete, but with planes that first flew in the 1990s.

Ottawa says bids will be evaluated in part on the basis of “past and recent economic behavior of potential bidders leading up to the procurement.”

That test is months away from being finalised, meaning Boeing has no idea whether Ottawa would be satisfied if it did drop the challenge, the sources said.

Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by James Dalgleish