Airbus, Boeing consider pulling out of bid for Canada’s future fighter jet

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.

As reported by Reuters, both Airbus and Boeing are bothered with Canada's supposed bias towards Lockheed Martin. RCAF/Dave Mills/MHM Publishing Photo
As reported by Reuters, both Airbus and Boeing are bothered with Canada’s supposed bias towards Lockheed Martin. RCAF/Dave Mills/MHM Publishing Photo

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.

7 thoughts on “Airbus, Boeing consider pulling out of bid for Canada’s future fighter jet

  1. This process is like watching hair grow. I don’t know how the Liberals get the impression that 80 aircraft are any inducement to any of these companies. For a decision to be made in 2022 is a joke, remember that is three years after we have sent Trudope to the trash heap!

  2. If Stephen Harper was still in power, Canada will have received its first F-35A, ordered Boeing KC-46A and P-8A as well as Boeing and LockheedMartin MilSatCom and everything will be great as when the Conservative Government ordered and received in time and within budget Boeing C-17 and CH-47F and LockheedMartin C-130J.

    1. If Harper was still in power the military would be worse off. Contrary to popular opinion the Conservatives are no friend of the Canadian Military. You forgot to mention all the bungles ie:new trucks for the army, search and rescue aircraft, the naval helicopter fiasco, northern deep water port, etc. As soon as we pulled out of Afghanistan the military budget took a nose dive. As far as the F-35 and KC-46A they are way over budget and have all kinds of serious problems .

  3. The country needs to get back to the procurement process of pre Chretien’s decade of darkness for the military, and keep the politicians out of it if the military is to get what it needs to operate.

  4. Historically there hasn’t been a Canadian Government that has been overly supportive of the Canadian Military. After WW1 , WW2, Korea, Afghanistan , guess what, support took a nose dive, regardless of the party in power. We have an extremely long coast line and the second largest country in the world. yet our politicians can’t get their heads around protecting this great land and it’s people. What’s worse they’re not getting better at it , need I say anymore except Trudeau.

  5. Ahhh Canadian defence! They have $10 invested in the F-35, so they’re going to fight to preserve its investment. Like everything related to the military, why not just admit that this country doesn’t really care about protecting itself or its citizens and let the Americans do the job?

    Cheap politics crippled this process 3 times over: once when Harper dumped us into the programme, once when Trudeau and his merry band of liberal idiots ran on a platform to pull of it, and finally when this competitive selection was pushed to an insane end date.

    It’ll be 2029 before the Air Force gets its complement of new fighters. By then, we’re sure to have had ancient CF-18s falling apart in flight. Who will be blamed then?

  6. the F18 was the wrong choice from the beginning. it’s a supercarrier multirole plane while we have no aircraft carriers. our applications are all land based ,including forward arctic bases presenting short takeoff demands and limited service facilities.(we COULD have bought the far superior F15 which costed less while having a far longer frame life).
    if we wanted warjets for smaller future ships attainable to Canada, then it would NOT be the F35 model under consideration,but the F35B VerticalShortTakeOffLanding variant, in which capacity as a Canadian NAVY plane would afford us formidable sealane power,albeit at a relatively high per plane cost but requiring only a very small number.
    since we already invested in the program and now getting some production contracts, acquiring/joint procuring say 2 dozen under a Navy budget then licensing building 80 or so cheaper lighter tactical planes which best suits our land bases-this being the JAS39 Gripen- fulfills the successful usairforce hi/lo 2 airframe mix formula-leveraging on the advanced datalinks between the Gripen and the F35B.

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