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Airbus and Boeing have considered withdrawing from Canada’s plan to find a replacement for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) aging CF-188 Hornet fleet. According to Reuters, sources close to the situation have stated that both OEMs are displeased with the Canadian government’s supposed bias in favour of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A Lightning II bid.
The procurement plan is a result of Justin Trudeau’s campaign promise to find a cheaper option than the F-35A to replace the legacy Hornets, which would be done via a competition. This produced four serious contenders for the contract – Airbus’ Eurofighter, Boeing’s F/A-18E/F, Saab’s Gripen E and Lockheed Martin’s F-35A.
In May, Trudeau’s government announced they would be making adjustments to Canada’s initial fighter jet procurement plan in order to accommodate Lockheed’s submission. Initially, the request-for-proposals would feature a caveat that any foreign entry would have to provide value to the Canadian economy equivalent to that of the contract.
Boeing, Airbus and Saab were all willing and able to adhere to the requirement. Lockheed Martin pushed back on the qualification, citing Canada’s involvement in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program that designed and developed the F-35A, which forbids partner nations to require economic benefits upon purchase.
The change to the procurement plan’s requirements led to unrest among Lockheed’s three competitors. As previously reported in Skies, Jim Barnes, director of business development in Canada for Boeing Defense, Space & Security, believed it was Canada’s way to “accommodate a competitor.”
Reuters is now reporting that Boeing and Airbus have formally written to Ottawa due to a concern with the government’s adjusted conditions. The defense ministry’s top official in charge of procurement, Pat Finn, confirmed that one of the companies had sent a formal letter of complaint, but spared any detail.
“We are looking at those very seriously. I can’t say that we will make every change, but as far as we know we continue to have four bidders in the race,” Finn told Reuters. He also claimed that the Canadian government has made adjustments to the requirements in order to suit Airbus, Boeing and Saab.
The government is set to release the request for proposals on July 17, officially setting the plan in motion to conclude a near-decade long search for the CF-188’s replacement. With that date just around the corner, Finn said that modifications are still being considered.
“We continue to engage all four of them,” he told Reuters. “We had some comments [such as] ‘if changes are not made in such a place then we would frankly consider possibly not bidding.'”
The process is expected to secure two finalists by 2020, with the final selection to be made in 2022.