Saab will compete with its JAS-39E Gripen. Lockheed Martin will again pitch its F-35 stealth fighter. Boeing is in line to offer the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Airbus Military plans to offer its Eurofighter Typhoon.
Canadian government will be calling for a tender to buy new fighters by the end of next month.
Boeing, Eurofighter Consortium, Lockheed Martin and Saab are expected to compete.
Once the request for proposals is released, the manufacturers will have until the end of the year to submit bids, defence and industry sources told CBC News.
On Jul. 16 2010, the Government of Canada under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced its intention to buy 65 F-35s to replace the Canadian Forces’ existing 80 CF-18 Hornets.
Then, on Oct. 19, 2015 the Liberal Party of Canada under Justin Trudeau won the country federal election and in early Jun. 2016 decided to buy the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as more affordable alternative to the F-35.
But Canada’s government cancelled a planned $2 billion purchase of 18 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters because of a decision by Boeing to launch a trade challenge against Canadian planemaker Bombardier, which the U.S. giant accuses of dumping airliners on the domestic American market.
The formal request for proposals for the future fighter fleet is expected to be released next month, with a contract award in 2021-22 and deliveries to begin in 2025.
Noteworthy the new competition comes at a time of renewed geopolitical rivalry between the West and Russia and China, and the chief of the Swedish Air Force says his fighters have been busier than ever.
Maj.-Gen. Mats Helgesson said Sweden, which has a long history of being a neutral and non-aligned country, has over the past few years found its airspace violated more frequently by both Russian and NATO warplanes.
That has required a stepped-up state of readiness for the country’s Gripen fighter jet squadrons.
“When we look around our borders, especially over the Baltic Sea, we can see increased activity, not only Russia, but also NATO,” Helgesson told CBC News in an interview.
“We see exercises. We see daily training and we also see intelligence gathering in a way that we haven’t seen for many years.”
The Swedish air force is about the same size as the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Saab intends to offer the latest variant of its JAS-39 — the E version — as a replacement for Canada’s current fleet of CF-18s.
According to Helgesson the Gripen E is a direct result of what the military and the country’s engineers can see being developed in Russia.
“It’s no secret that we need to be able to meet, not only Russia, but also other high-performing aircraft in the future,” he said, pointing to Russia’s Su-30 fighter jet, the more modern Su-35 (known by the NATO designation “The Flanker”) and the stealth Su-57.
There has been a rigorous political and academic debate about whether Canada should choose a legacy design from the 1990s, such as the Gripen, or the recently introduced Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter.
The notion that stealth fighters are needed for conflicts with countries like Russia — countries that have advanced air-defence systems — was partly dismissed by the Swedish Defence Research Agency in a recent report.
Russia’s anti-access/areas-denial weapons (known as A2/AD) are not all they’re cracked up to be, said the report released last month, which looked at the use of such systems in the Syria conflict.
“On closer inspection, however, Russia’s capabilities are not quite as daunting, especially if potential countermeasures are factored in,” said the report.
The competition among manufacturers for Canada’s fighter jet business is expected to be intense.
Lockheed Martin will again pitch its F-35 stealth fighter. Boeing is in line to offer the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Airbus Military plans to offer its Eurofighter Typhoon.
Photo credit: Alain Rioux via Wikimedia Commons and Saab
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com