This story has been updated with confirmation by Canada of Dassault’s withdrawal.
VICTORIA, British Columbia — Dassault Aviation has withdrawn from Canada’s competition to buy 88 new fighter jets over concerns that interoperability and intelligence sharing requirements were too extensive, according to industry sources.
Dassault had been approved by the Canadian government for the competition and intended to offer the Royal Canadian Air Force the Rafale fighter jet.
A draft bid package for 88 fighter aircraft has been issued to companies for their feedback by the end of this year, said Pat Finn, assistant deputy minister for materiel at Canada’s Department of National Defence. From there, the final bidding instructions for the CAN$16 billion (U.S. $12.2 billion) procurement will be issued and bids required by May 2019, he added.
Dassault, however, reviewed the draft request for proposals and determined the Canadian requirements for intelligence data sharing and interoperability, particularly with U.S. forces, would be difficult to meet, sources noted.
One of the main roles of the fighter jets would be in the defense of North America. The Royal Canadian Air Force closely operates with the U.S. military in that role through the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Neither the French Embassy in Ottawa nor Dassault responded to a request for comment.
Public Services and Procurement Canada, which is overseeing the project, confirmed that Dassault is no longer in the competition. “On Nov. 8, the French government officially notified Canada of its withdrawal from the competitive process to replace Canada’s fighter jet fleet,” Public Services and Procurement Canada spokesperson Rania Haddad said. “We will continue to work closely with the remaining eligible suppliers to ensure they are well-positioned to participate in the ongoing competition.”
A Canadian government source said the official letter from Dassault indicating its withdrawal from the fighter competition is expected later Wednesday.
For decades, the Royal Canadian Air Force has traditionally operated American-built fighter aircraft and had originally expressed its preference for the Lockheed Martin F-35.
With the Rafale out of the race, the potential aircraft in the competition now include the F-35, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab’s Gripen and the Boeing Super Hornet.
The selected aircraft will replace Canada’s current fleet of CF-18 fighter jets.
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.
The government will require a robust package of guaranteed industrial benefits or offsets be provided by the winning bidder, 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.
David Pugliese is the Canada correspondent for Defense News.