A blue Hornet?

Check out the CF-188 from the Royal Canadian Air Force as it shows off its capabilities at RIAT 2018.

VICTORIA, British Columbia — Canada expects to accept formal bids for a new fighter jet in May, with the first aircraft delivered by 2025, according to Canadian government procurement officials.

A draft bid package for 88 fighters was issued to companies for their feedback by the end of this year, said Pat Finn, assistant deputy minister for materiel at the Department of National Defence. From there, the final bidding instructions for the CA$16 billion (U.S. $12 billion) procurement will be issued and bids required by May 2019, he added.

The aircraft will replace Canada’s current fleet of CF-18 fighter jets. The aircraft expected to be considered include Lockheed Martin’s F-35, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, Saab’s Gripen and the Boeing Super Hornet.

The Canadian government will require a robust package of guaranteed industrial benefits or offsets from the winning bidder, government officials said. But that could be a problem for the F-35, as Canada is still a partner in that program, which does not guarantee participating-nations contracts. Work on the F-35 program is based on best value and price.

Canadian industrial participation in the F-35 program has reached $1 billion, as more than 110 Canadian firms have landed contracts related to the aircraft program.

Jeff Waring, director general for industrial benefits policy at the federal Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, said the country sees the fighter jet program as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity for the Canadian economy.”

But he noted the industrial benefits policy is flexible. “It is a market-driven approach,” he said. “It encourages suppliers to make investments that make sense to them.”

The issue of industrial benefits has already been discussed with companies interested in bidding on the project, and those talks will continue as feedback is received on the draft bid package, government officials said.