Canada launches contest to build new fighter jet; first delivery in 2025

FILE PHOTO: A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada launched a long-delayed competition to build new fighter jets on Tuesday, and said it was confident no favoritism had been shown toward any one contender, though some in the industry have said the race is tilted towards Lockheed Martin Corp..

Ottawa wants 88 new planes in a contract worth between C$15 billion ($11.4 billion) and C$19 billion ($14.5 billion). Initial proposals are due in the spring of 2020, with a winner named early in 2022, and the first aircraft delivery to be scheduled for as early as 2025, a statement from the federal government said.

Earlier this month, sources told Reuters that Airbus SE and Boeing Co might pull out over fears the air force is determined to buy Lockheed Martin’s F-35 plane. A fourth contender is Sweden’s Saab AB.

There was no immediate comment from any of the four potential bidders.

Andre Fillion, assistant deputy minister of Defense and Marine Procurement, said there had been “intense engagement” with all the eligible suppliers while drafting the jet requirements, and “thousands of changes” were made as a consequence.

“We’re quite confident that we have a product that we’ll publish today that does not have any show stoppers for any of the suppliers,” Fillion said in a telephone interview.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Bernadette Baum