The $ 19 billion contract to replace Canada’s CF-18s is down to two official bidders, and a spokesperson associated with one of those companies says hundreds of jobs could come to the Atlantic region if they are selected.
“We are talking about 600 [jobs] in the Atlantic region and around 6,000 distributed, during the term of the contract, in Canada ”, says Mike Michaud, director of operations of IMP Aerospace.
“The plan is to build them right here in Halifax.”
IMP Group is a partner in Saab, a Swedish-based company, which is one of the two remaining proponents of the job to build 88 fighter jets. Lockheed Martin is the other company competing for the offer.
No one from Lockheed Martin was available for an interview on Thursday, but in a statement to Global News, a spokesperson says that “approximately 150,000 jobs will be supported in Canada through the selection of the F-35,” according to an impact study. economic.
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The official announcement from Public Services and Procurement of Canada comes nearly a week after The Canadian Press first reported that Boeing had been told that its bid for the $ 19 billion fighter jet contract was not in compliance. Canadian requirements.
The government declined to comment publicly at the time, even on whether the American aerospace giant was out of the competition.
But the department in a statement Wednesday confirmed that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter and the Swedish Saab Gripen are the only two fighters still in dispute.
The statement did not say why Boeing’s offer was not accepted.
Jeff Collins, an associate professor at UPEI and an expert on defense procurement, says Lockheed Martin could have the upper hand.
“We don’t do things indecently, we work in alliances. And our number one ally is America and we’ve been buying American fighter jets since the late 1950s, early 1960s, “he says. “So opting for a non-US front-line fighter jet would be a huge break and break with the past precedent.”
Bidders had been asked to demonstrate that their fighter aircraft could meet military requirements for missions at home and abroad, and that winning the contract would generate substantial economic benefits for Canada.
The news that one of the two US companies competing for the contract failed to meet one or more of the requirements is the latest twist on what has already been a long and often unpredictable road to replace CF-18s from Canada.
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While Public Services and Procurement Canada says it will finalize the next steps in the competition in the coming weeks, it insists it still hopes to award a contract in time for the first new fighter jet to arrive in 2025.
Many observers had seen the Super Hornet and the F-35 as the only real competition due to Canada’s close relationship with the United States, which includes using fighter jets together to defend North America’s aerospace industry on a daily basis.
There have been long-standing concerns in some corners that all the competition has been set up early on to select the F-35, which is being bought by many of Canada’s closest allies.
Canada first joined the US and other allies as a partner in the development of the F-35 in 1997 and has since paid $ 613 million to stay at the table. The partners get a discount when they buy the planes and compete for billions of dollars in contracts associated with their construction and maintenance.
The Conservative government of Stephen Harper pledged to buy 65 F-35s without competition in 2010, before concerns about the stealth fighter’s cost and capabilities forced it back to the drawing board.
The Liberals promised in 2015 not to buy the F-35, but to launch an open competition to replace the CF-18s. They later planned to buy 18 Super Hornets without competition as a “stopgap” measure to ensure Canada had enough planes until permanent replacements could be purchased.
Collins, a professor at UPEI, says that “controversy has been pursuing the CF-18 replacement project since 2010.”
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“In this case, we have seen one and two governments now, treat it like political football,” he says. “The consequence is that the [Royal Canadian Air Force] continues to use older and older aircraft. You have driver retention issues; We paid over a billion dollars to buy used Australian F-18s to help grow our own fleet. “
Some at the time questioned that plan, suggesting that the Liberals were trying to find a way to lock Canada into the Super Hornet without opening up to a legal challenge from Lockheed Martin or any other aircraft manufacturer.
But the government canceled the plan after Boeing launched a trade dispute with Montreal aerospace firm Bombardier over the latter’s C-Series jets. It later introduced a sanction for companies seeking a federal contract that have initiated a commercial dispute with Canada.
Meanwhile, the government has been forced to invest an additional hundreds of millions of dollars in the CF-18 fleet to keep it flying until a replacement can be delivered. The government has said it plans to name a winner in the coming months, with the first aircraft delivered in 2025.
The last aircraft is not scheduled to arrive until 2032, by which time the CF-18s will have been around for 50 years.
– with files from The Canadian Press
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