5 septembre 2019 |
By DAVID PUGLIESE, OTTAWA CITIZEN
Another company has pulled out of Canada’s competition to buy new fighter jets.
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence and Airbus Defence and Space informed the Canadian government Friday of their decision to withdraw from Canada’s future fighter competition. Airbus had been offering Canada the Eurofighter.
Last year the European firm Dassault informed the Canadian government it would not be competing in the competition. It had been planning to offer Canada the Rafale fighter jet.
The $19 billion competition has been dogged by allegations it is designed to favour Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter.
Postmedia reported earlier this year that the requirements for the new jets put emphasis on strategic attack and striking at ground targets during foreign missions. That criteria is seen to benefit the F-35. In addition, the federal government changed criteria on how it would assess industrial benefits after the U.S. government threatened to pull the F-35 from the competition.
Industry representatives have said they will carefully review the Canadian requirements before making their decision to bid. The work needed to prepare a bid will cost the firms around $15 million each.
The decision to pull the Eurofighter from the competition leaves the F-35, the Boeing Super Hornet, and Saab’s Gripen. It is unclear whether Boeing or Saab will continue in the competition.
Airbus and the UK Defence Ministry noted that its decision to withdraw was the result of a detailed review of Canada’s request for proposals which was released to industry on July 23. It pointed to the changes Canada made to the industrial benefits package to appease Lockheed Martin as well as the excessive security costs that U.S.-Canadian security requirements placed on a company based outside North America.
“A detailed review has led the parties to conclude that NORAD security requirements continue to place too significant of a cost on platforms whose manufacture and repair chains sit outside the United States-Canada 2-EYES community,” the statement from Airbus and the UK Defence Ministry noted. “Second, both parties concluded that the significant recent revision of industrial technological benefits obligations does not sufficiently value the binding commitments the Typhoon Canada package was willing to make, and which were one of its major points of focus.”
Bids must be submitted by the spring of 2020.
Public Services and Procurement Canada, which is running the competition, did not provide comment.
A winning bid is expected to be determined by early 2022. The first aircraft would be delivered by 2025.
Technical merit will make up the bulk of the assessment at 60 per cent. Cost and economic benefits companies can provide to Canada will each be worth 20 per cent.
The Conservative government had previously selected the F-35 as the air force’s new jet but backed away from that plan after concerns about the technology and growing cost.
During the 2015 election campaign, Justin Trudeau vowed that his government would not purchase the F-35. But at the same time, Trudeau stated his government would hold an open competition for the fighter purchase.
The Liberal government backed away from its promise to freeze out the F-35 and the aircraft is now seen as a front-runner in the competition as it has many supporters in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Many of Canada’s allies plan to operate the plane.
Canada is a partner in the F-35 program and has contributed funding for the aircraft’s development. Canada already changed some of the industrial benefits criteria of its fighter jet competition in May to satisfy concerns from the U.S. government that the F-35 would be penalized or couldn’t be considered because of how that program was set up.
U.S. officials had warned that the F-35 development agreement Canada signed years ago prohibits partners from imposing requirements for industrial benefits. Under the F-35 agreement, partner nations such as Canada are prohibited from demanding domestic companies receive specific work on the fighter jet. Instead, Canadian firms compete and if they are good enough they receive contracts. Over the last 12 years, Canadian firms have earned more than $1.3 billion in contracts to build F-35 parts.
The changes made in May would now allow some of those F-35 contracts to be considered when looking at industrial benefits for the new planes.