Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Rival Jet Makers Crank Up Hard Sell as Harper Cabinet Mulls F-35 Decision

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Rival Jet Makers Crank Up Hard Sell as Harper Cabinet Mulls F-35 Decision

Article excerpt

Fighter-plane rivals jockey over F-35

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OTTAWA - Companies vying to build Canada's new fighter jets are cranking up their sales pitches, but they'll be waiting a while longer to learn whether the Harper government intends to hold a full competition -- or stick with the troubled F-35 program.

A decision is still pending, and no timeline is imminent on when that decision might be forthcoming, Public Works Minister Diane Finley told a gathering of defence contractors Thursday.

"Over the next few weeks, ministers will finish reviewing a number of reports relating to the evaluation of options, industrial benefits, costs and other factors related to the decision to replace our CF-18 fleet," Finley said.

The comments came as representatives Dassault Aviation and Eurofighter talked up the merits of their individual jet fighters this week at a major industry trade show in Ottawa.

Not to be outdone, Lockheed Martin -- the U.S. manufacturer of the F-35 -- and rival Boeing, the maker of the Super Hornet, set up glitzy high-tech simulators hoping to give participants a taste of what it's like to fly their fast jets.

Finley pledged to make public the independent analysis of the various options, the document on which the government will base its decision. But it will be a sanitized version to protect the commercial interests of each of the four contenders.

While all had praise for the nearly 18-month-long government review process, there was an underlying anxiety and hard edge to each of the aircraft-maker's pitches.

Yves Robins, a senior vice president with Dassault, the French aircraft-maker, said the Conservative government's recent overhaul of the military procurement system means federal officials would be hard-pressed to explain a return to the F-35 sole-source plan.

"I imagine that if the Canadian authorities will want to be consistent with what they are expressing in their projects, there is a good chance they will consider what the other options are," he said.

Robins said that if there is a competition, it likely would be completed quickly because the secretariat overseeing the program has carried out extensive research and consultation with each of the rivals. …

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