VICTORIA, British Columbia — The Canadian government has issued a request for information from aerospace firms about the types of fighter aircraft they could provide, a signal that an earlier proposal to acquire Boeing Super Hornet jets on an interim basis is likely dead.
When the Super Hornet proposal first surfaced in early June, Lockheed Martin launched an aggressive lobbying and media campaign to warn that F-35 work being done by Canadian firms would be put in jeopardy if the Canadian government proceeded with such a move.
Government officials have not raised the proposal since, and companies have now been asked to provide the initial data on their aircraft by July 29.
The Department of National Defence plans to rewrite its requirements for a new fighter jet, said Harjit Sajjan, the defence minister for the Liberal Party government.
Sajjan and other Liberal government officials have said the existing requirements, developed by the previous Conservative Party government, are geared to favor the F-35.
At the same time, Sajjan has said he wants an open competition to replace Canada's aging CF-18 fighter jets.
Lockheed Martin is responding to the Canadian government's request for information about its fighter jet, a company spokesperson confirmed.
Boeing is responding with information about the Super Hornet. Other potential contenders include the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, and Saab's Gripen.
Sajjan said because of the age of the CF-18s, Canada is facing a fighter jet capability gap in fulfilling its NORAD and NATO commitments. "It's the reason why we have taken this approach to gather officials together from the various departments, get the necessary information so that we can make a better decision on the process we're going to take to procure fighter jets," he explained. "There is an urgency and hence why we're moving forward on this very quickly."
Sajjan said he didn't have a timeframe when the replacement project would proceed. "It all depends on a lot of the information that we do collect, but it is going to be months, not years, definitely, because of the urgency for this," he said.
Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to power last fall, pledging not to purchase the F-35, an aircraft he says is unnecessary for Canada's needs and too expensive.