OTTAWA, Ont. — Sources say Ottawa is poised to buy a fleet of high-tech U.S. fighter jets from a single source to replace its CF-18s.
The Globe and Mail says the contract is worth up to $9 billion and would be awarded without competition.
The report has industry and government insiders saying the cabinet is expected to approve the launch of negotiations on price and delivery schedules with Lockeed Martin in coming days.
The U.S. based company makes the Joint Strike Fighter F-35.
The Globe’s sources say the government is moving early on buying 65 new aircraft in a bid to “lock up the price” long before the jets are used.
Sources add that the Harper government is set to argue that the only other aircraft which could meet the needs of the Canadian Forces would be built in China or Russia — and that “wouldn’t fly” in Canada.
The murmurs of the contract come after days of furious last-minute lobbying by rival jet makers.
Boeing’s Super Hornet has been trying to convince journalists and parliamentarians that Canada could get new planes for cheaper if it opened up tenders.
But the Globe reports government officials are privately saying the decision to buy a next-generation fighter jet was made in 2008, and Boeing lost the race for a contract in 2001.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay addressed speculation on the jets in the House on Monday saying his government is set to “invest in the next generation of fighters.”
The Globe says MacKay had initially spoken of the Joint Strike Fighter as the designated replacement of the CF-18s but then said a decision had yet to be made.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35s are single-seat, single-engine stealth multirole fighters that can be used for air support, tactical bombing and air defence missions.
The 65 new fighters that the Canadian government plans to buy will replace its current fleet of 80 CF-18s starting in 2017.
(Globe and Mail)