Feds call for fighter jet pitches

A photographer takes pictures of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter



OTTAWA - The call is out for five American and European fighter jet manufacturers to polish up their sales pitches and give the Canadian government a ring.

Following the mid-December update of F-35 cost estimates and re-setting of the process to replace the old CF-18 fleet, Public Works Department officials have written to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Dassault Aviation, EADS Eurofighter and Saab Group to say that the government will soon ask them what they could offer as the new mainstay for Canada's air force.

"A key component of this undertaking is a market analysis of fighter aircraft currently in production or scheduled to be in production," said Deputy Minister Michelle d'Auray in the letter sent with little fanfare on Dec. 27. "Your company's participation in this endeavour will greatly assist the Government of Canada in its assessment of options for a fighter replacement capability well into the 21st Century."

The Conservative government heavily favoured Lockheed Martin's F-35 stealth fighter until an auditor general's report last spring slapped the feds for a shoddy procurement process.

With Public Works taking over the fighter jet file from National Defence, the letter to defence contractors lumps Lockheed Martin in with its competition.

It also opens the door for companies to make the case that Boeing's Super Hornet, the French-produced Rafale, Eurofighter's Typhoon or the Swedish-made Gripen is a better fit for Canada than the F-35.

Still, that stops short of opposition party demands for a fully open competition to replace the air force's CF-18s.

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