Boeing, Eurofighter bid to usurp F-35 for Canadian fighter deal

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Boeing and Eurofighter have launched a public challenge to Lockheed Martin's widely presumed control of a next-generation fighter contract in Canada.

Both challengers unveiled the outlines of a new push to respectively market the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Typhoon to Ottawa as replacements for the Canadian air force's Boeing CF-18 (F/A-18A/B) Hornets by the end of the next decade.

As a member of the nine-nation Joint Strike Fighter programme since 2002, Lockheed executives have described Canada as a likely buyer for up to 80 F-35s, although the Department of National Defence has released a revised requirement for 65 jets.

Canada has invested $150 million to participate in the F-35's system development and demonstration phase, and has signed for a follow-on production and sustainment phase.

lockheed martin
 © Lockheed Martin

But despite this track record and a $9 billion stake over the life of the programme for Canadian industry, Lockheed acknowledges that the DND has not committed to buy F-35s, says Keith Knotts, business development director for Canada and the UK. Ottawa plans to begin receiving new fighters in 2017.

Lockheed believes that Canadian industry will pressure DND officials to make a decision soon to buy the JSF, as many suppliers are facing imminent decisions on making major capital investments for new tooling to support their role in the programme, Knotts says.

Boeing's sales pitch to Ottawa is also focused on economic gains. Buying new Super Hornets could generate $8 billion in economic benefit for Canadian industry over 25 years, and provide access to offset work across the whole of Boeing and the Hornet Industry Team's portfolio of contract work, says Glenn Erutti, its director of new international Super Hornet business development.

Similarly, the four-nation Eurofighter consortium has touted "job creation and sustainment", as well as the ability to transfer "full sovereignty" over the Typhoon's operational technology, says Ian Malin, head of Typhoon exports business development for BAE Systems. BAE is leading Eurofighter's marketing campaign in Canada.

canadian forces
 © Canadian Forces

DND officials have not publicly defined how the F-35's challengers will be considered in their decision-making.

Boeing officials say they expect Ottawa to decide within a year on whether to recommend a selected fighter or invite competitive bids for its next-generation fighter requirement.

A final decision is needed by no later than 2014 to meet Canada's 2017 in-service deadline.