Defence Notes

Industry at odds on Canada’s Future Fighter delay

28th February 2020 - 13:30 GMT | by Tim Martin in London

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Two of the three industry competitors involved in Canada’s Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP) have said they did not ask decision-makers for an RfP submission extension.

Lockheed Martin and Boeing had no part to play in the matter, spokespeople from each of the companies confirmed to Shephard, in a different stance to that of the other party involved in the competition.

‘Saab was prepared, and remains prepared, to submit a bid based on the Government of Canada’s timelines,’ a spokesperson for the Swedish manufacturer explained in a statement, when asked about the issue.

Public Services and Procurement Canada, the agency responsible for managing the competition, did not identify the reason for agreeing to the extension request but insisted that the decision would have no impact on ‘the timeline for the selection of a successful bidder’, with a contract announcement set to be made in 2022 and first aircraft delivery in 2025.

'In order to maintain the integrity of this process, we cannot disclose the reasons for the extension request,' a spokesperson for the organisation explained. 'As with all procurements, our responsibility is to remain transparent while protecting commercially sensitive information.'

A need to consider security questions moved industry to seek an extension, with an additional three months now shifting the initial RfP submission deadline from March to June, according to a report from Reuters.

‘Our focus remains on moving the process forward as quickly as we can in order to get the best plane for the Royal Canadian Air Force [RCAF], at the right price and with the most economic benefit to Canadians,’ a spokesperson for Public Services and Procurement Canada told Shephard.

Canada’s FFCP aims to replace a fleet of legacy Boeing CF-18 Hornet aircraft with 88 new platforms, at a cost of C$15-19 billion (US$11.1-14.1 billion), but has suffered from industry disruption in the past with Dassault and Airbus withdrawing from consideration following objections to interoperability and North American Aerospace Defense Command requirements. 

The F-35, F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet Block 3 and Gripen E are all competing in Canada's Future Fighter Capability Project. (Photo: Shephard Defence Insight)

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If privately a withdrawal is under consideration by any of the three manufacturers, such a position has not been suggested publicly.

‘Saab can confirm that we will submit a fully compliant response to the Future Fighter Capability Project RfP and will continue working with the Government of Canada as required,’ a company spokesperson added, while Lockheed Martin and Boeing similarly confirmed their commitment to the programme.

Supplier teams from all three competitors visited RCAF 3 Wing Bagotville and 4 Wing Cold Lake in December 2019, but issues addressed between Canada and industry during the event remain undisclosed on grounds of confidentiality, according to Saab, which is offering the Gripen E.

Without detailing specific costs from its Super Hornet F/A-18E/F Block 3 offer, Boeing said its capabilities – which feature the undercarriage-mounted Block II IR search and track pod – and life-cycle ‘proposition’ represented a ‘very compelling offer’ for Canada.

‘The F-35 is the most capable, best value fighter with significant, long-term industrial opportunities,’ a Lockheed Martin spokesperson added. ‘We support the Government of Canada’s open and fair procurement process and look forward to submitting a comprehensive proposal.’

Canada previously aborted an F-35 order following a change of government and backed by current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but a general perception still lingers that the aircraft will win out when the future fighter contract is finally awarded. 

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