Canadian Manufacturing

Boeing has been told its bid to replace CF-18s did not meet federal government’s requirements

The other two companies competing for the $19-billion contract -- U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin and Swedish firm Saab -- were told they met the government's requirements.

November 26, 2021  The Canadian Press

Boeing has been told that its bid to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s with a new fleet of the American company’s Super Hornet fighter jets did not meet the federal government’s requirements.

Three sources from industry and government say the message was delivered on Nov. 24 as the other two companies competing for the $19-billion contract — U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin and Swedish firm Saab — were told they met the government’s requirements.

The three sources were all granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss these matters publicly.

The Department of National Defence and Public Services and Procurement Canada, which is managing the competition on behalf of the federal government, did not respond to requests for comment on Nov. 25.

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Companies had been ordered to show their fighter jet was able to meet the military’s requirements for missions at home and abroad, but also that winning the contract would result in substantial economic benefits to Canada.

However, while Boeing’s failure to meet the requirements would appear to disqualify the Super Hornet from the competition, leaving only Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and Saab’s Gripen fighter jet in the running, none of the companies have been told whether they are still in or out.

News that one of the two U.S. companies competing for the contract failed to meet one or more of the requirements is the latest twist in what has already been a long and often unpredictable road toward replacing Canada’s CF-18s.

Many observers had seen the Super Hornet and F-35 as the only real competition because of Canada’s close relationship with the United States, which includes using fighter jets together to defend North American aerospace on a daily basis.

Those perceptions were only amplified after two other European companies dropped out of the competition before it even started, complaining the government’s requirements had stacked the deck in favour of their U.S. rivals.

Canada first joined the U.S. and other allies as a partner in developing the F-35 in 1997 and has since paid US$613 million to stay at the table. Partners get a discount when purchasing the jets and compete for billions of dollars in contracts associated with building and maintaining them.

Meanwhile, the government has been forced to invest hundreds of millions of additional dollars into 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 plane delivered in 2025.