The Canadian government has announced that five bidders — Boeing, Dassault, Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin and Saab — are eligible to compete for a long sought-after contract to replace the country’s 88 CF-18 fighters.
The disclosure of the Future Fighter Capabilities Project (FFCP)’s official Supplier’s List ends a mystery about whether Boeing would decline to participate after angering Canadian government officials.
The Supplier’s List shows that Royal Canadian Air Force’s options remain plentiful, with the Typhoon, Rafale, Gripen, Super Hornet and F-35 Lightning II available for purchase. The release of the government’s Supplier’s List does not mean the companies are committed to submitting bids for the contract award scheduled 2021 or 2022.
“We will continue to evaluate our participation in the FFCP as the Government of Canada outlines the procurement approach, requirements and evaluation criteria,” Boeing says.
The company’s role in the project has gone through a couple of unexpected twists and turns. The conservative Harper government had selected the F-35 to replace the CF-18 fleet in 2009. But the arrival of the Trudeau government in 2015 led to a review of that decision. Initially, the RCAF announced plans to buy 24 F/A-18E/Fs as an interim solution, then select a permanent CF-18 replacement in the early 2020s.
Last year, however, Boeing filed a trade complaint with the US Commerce Department against Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier over allegedly unfair pricing on a sale of CSeries aircraft to Delta Air Lines. The Canadian government react strongly against Boeing, canceling the interim fighter deal. The Canadian defence minister said last summer that Boeing was not a trusted partner of the Canadian government.
In January, the US International Trade Commission determined Boeing was not injured by the Delta order, negating a 292% tariff on CSeries imports proposed by the Commerce Department.
“Boeing values Canada as a customer and supplier-partner for both our commercial and defense businesses,” Boeing says.
The Canadian government plans to begin receiving new fighters under the contract in 2025, with initial operational capability scheduled six years later.