Boeing targets Super Hornet fighter jet sale to Canada

US plane maker among companies including Airbus and Lockheed Martin being considered by North American country as it looks to replace its ageing attack aircraft fleet.

A US navy Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet strike aircraft. Canada is in talks with jet makers including Boeing as it looks to upgrade its fleet of fighter jets. Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP
Powered by automated translation

Canada is assessing data from bidders to replace its ageing fleet of fighter jets, a Boeing executive says.

The country’s Liberal government promised during last year’s election that it would launch an open competition to replace Canada’s CF-18 fighter aircraft.

It pledged not to buy Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jets, as the previous Conservative government had planned to do, calling them expensive and unnecessary.

While the government has yet to release details on such a competition, it requested data this summer from five companies that have fighter aircraft in production or planned production, including Lockheed and Boeing, which wants Canada to buy its F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.

The government sought up-to-date information on areas including capabilities and economic benefits.

“The focus on data was very clear, very strong,” said Marc Allen, the president of Boeing International, the unit which handles Boeing’s strategy and operations outside the United States. “It gave all of the suppliers a chance to set down in black and white what it is their platform does.”

Since then, Boeing has been engaged in a “ping-pong” set of questions and answers with the government, said Mr Allen.

The defence minister Harjit Sajjan has said the government foresees a growing capability gap in the 2020s and that there is an urgent need to replace the CF-18s.

“They know it’s imperative to solve that capability gap,” said Mr Allen. “They are moving in a way that says they understand that.”

Mr Allen said ordinarily it can take multiple years from when an order is placed to when jets are delivered.

The other potential fighter jet suppliers are Saab, Dassault Aviation, and the Eurofighter consortium , which includes Airbus.

As Boeing campaigns to win the contract, it is citing the work opportunities that would be available to Canadian firms across the country if the federal government were to purchase the Super Hornet.

Mr Allen did not rule out giving work to the struggling plane maker Bombardier, noting that Boeing always works with its competitors.

“We’re not going to rule out anybody from the perspective of who would be a good partner,” he said.

Boeing earlier this month formally challenged a decision by the Danish government to pick the F-35 fighter jet over the Super Hornet, citing a flawed evaluation process.

Mr Allen said that was a very particular circumstance and that Canada’s process was calibrated to ensure an accurate analysis.

Follow The National's Business section on Twitter