Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Set to Meet with Fighter Jet Firms amid Super Hornet Questions

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Set to Meet with Fighter Jet Firms amid Super Hornet Questions

Article excerpt

Feds set to meet with fighter jet makers

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OTTAWA - Federal officials are expected to sit down with representatives from different fighter jet makers in Paris next week, as uncertainty swirls over the Trudeau government's plan to buy "interim" Super Hornets.

The meetings on the sidelines of the prestigious Paris Air Show are being billed as the first step towards the eventual launch of a competition to replace Canada's aging CF-18 fleet with 88 new fighters.

That is how many warplanes the Liberals' new defence policy calls for Canada to buy, an increase from the 65 previously promised by the Conservatives under Stephen Harper.

The policy estimates the cost at between $15 billion and $19 billion, up from the $9 billion previously budgeted by the Tories.

But while much of the attention will be on the competition, which the government says it will launch in 2019, the companies are also expected to pitch their own ability to sell Canada "interim" jets if needed.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan on Monday said the government was still reviewing its decision to buy 18 "interim" Super Hornets from U.S. aerospace firm Boeing.

The Liberals previously said they needed the Super Hornets to address a critical shortage of fighter jets, referred to as a "capability gap," until the full competition to replace the CF-18s could be run.

The government said at the time that the Super Hornet was the only aircraft that met its immediate requirements, including being compatible with U.S. fighters and not in development.

But that was before Boeing complained to the U.S. Commerce Department about Canadian aerospace firm Bombardier, sparking a trade dispute and threats from the Liberals to kill the Super Hornet deal.

The plan to purchase an interim fighter jet has been unpopular with retired military officers and defence officials as well as analysts, who have instead called for the competition to start now rather than in 2019.

A survey of 75 such experts conducted by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and released on Tuesday found that the vast majority didn't believe there was a capability gap, and opposed the plan to buy interim jets. …

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