The ongoing multi-year saga of Canada’s attempt to replace its ageing CF-18 fighter jets took yet another bizarre twist today.
Every country making such enormous multi-billion dollar purchases seeks to have domestic benefits in terms of manufacturing of components.
Canada was to buy the F-35 in 2010, and has been sending tens of millions of dollars to Lockheed-Martin annually to remain a “partner” in the F-35 development programme and as one of four international contenders to replace Canada’s CF-18’s, Then there was a problem with the “single source bidding”.
Four planes to bid
In 2015, the Liberals announced they would open the bidding, and while the F-35 was a possibility, also in the running were the Saab Grippen E of Sweden, the Eurofighter Typhoon of Airbus Defence and Space of Britian, and the U.S. Boeing Super Hornet.
U.S claims of “unfair” and threats to withdraw
Now a Canadian think tank citing letters written by Pentagon officials last says the U.S has threatened to pull the F-35 out of the competition, saying the Canadian Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) Policy, was not part of the F-35 development deal, and it puts the plane at a disadvantage in the bidding.
A letter written by Vice-Admiral Mathias Winter of the U.S. Navy dated December 18.2018 said, “If the ITB requirement remains in effect, an F-35 offer will not be provided. We look forward to Canada reaffirming its status as an F-35 partner and hope the ITB issue will be resolved quickly so the F-35 is able to compete.” The letter was sent to the senior director of fighter jet programme at Public Services and Procurment Canada
But wait there’s more
No sooner had this news been made public than the U.S government began urging Canada to buy a U.S made fighter for the $26 billion dollar programme, ie, the Super Hornet or F-35.
They said it is crucial that any new purchase be able to work alongside U.S military aircraft involved in the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) which patrols and controls airspace over the continent, especially in the far north.
A spokesman at the U.S Embassy in Ottawa quoted in the Globe and Mail citing crucial inter-operability said his government remains, “hopeful that U.S. firms are able to participate in open and transparent competition processes that can support Canada’s NATO and NORAD obligations, especially when it comes to co-operative engagement capabilities.”
The two European models would have some technical difficulties integrating into fully integrate into the NORAD alliance.
The Canadian government is expected to announce the bidding process for some 88 new fighter jets at the end of May.
How the Canadian general election turns out just a few months later and a possible change of government may affect a purchase is not known. Previous government changes have resulted in cancellation of major contracts. When the Liberals took office in 1993, they cancelled the major military helicopter replacement contract incurring a charge of $483 million in penalties and restarting a multi year search for replacements for the ageing Sea King model,
- CBC: M Brewster: May 6/19: US claims Canada’s procurement requirement unfair
- Canadian Press: (viat TorStar) L Berthiaume: US threatens to pull F-35 from bidding
- Globe and Mail: D Leblanc: May 7/19: US government to Canada-buy US jets
- Associated Press (via Globe and Mail): M Faulkner: May 6/19: Jet fighter programme adds to list of Canada US disputes
- Canadian Press (via CBC);L Bertiaume: Jan 30/19: Canada’s plan for more F-35’s means Canada has to pay more
- CBC: M Brewster: Apr 15/19: Canada’ tender process for new fighters set for May