Briefing documents from Industry Canada officials mulling over what advice to give the incoming Liberal government last year regarding the procurement of replacement aircraft for the Air Force’s CF-18 fleet recommended that the purchase should be “driven by operational needs” rather than politics.
Prior to their gaining power in Ottawa, the Liberal promised to exclude Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter from the competition to replace the CF-18 fighter jets and would instead consider a much cheaper alternative.
However, shortly after the election, the party began stepping back from this earlier position. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Industry Canada Minister Judy Foote have both said that the F-35 will not be excluded from the competition.
A report from the Canadian Press said that documents it recently obtained provide “tantalizing proof” that would explain the Liberal’s sudden change of tone.
“…not all companies in Canada are equally positioned to take advantage of industrial opportunities related to available fighters,” according to the briefing documents obtained by the Canadian Press.
An F-35 purchase may provide greater sustainment opportunities for Canadian aerospace companies and could run to the billions of dollars, the briefing material said.
The F-35 program allows Canadian companies to bid on contracts associated with the bid. By contrast typical military procurement contracts allocate a specific amount of work and cash for to Canadian aerospace firms.
“The program is beginning to make concrete decisions regarding how the global F-35 fleet will be sustained (i.e. maintenance, repair, simulation and training),” according to the document. “Like production work, such sustainment work will be allocated on a best-value basis to those countries that have committed to acquiring the plane.”
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