Ottawa’s planned fighter competition incompatible with F-35 obligations: U.S.

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OTTAWA — U.S. officials have warned the Trudeau government that its plan to hold an open competition to replace its aging CF-18s is incompatible with Canada’s obligations as a member of the F-35 stealth-fighter program.

The warnings are in two letters sent to the government last year that were obtained by defence analyst Richard Shimooka and released in a report published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute think-tank.

The letters specifically take issue with the government’s plan to have each fighter-jet maker commit to re-investing in Canada if its aircraft wins the upcoming competition aimed at buying 88 new planes for $19 billion.

While that is standard for most Canadian military procurements, the U.S. officials note that Canada agreed not to apply such a requirement when it signed on as one of nine F-35 partner countries in 2006.

Companies in those countries are instead allowed to compete for work associated with the plane, and the U.S. officials say imposing requirements as a condition to bid will mean the F-35 won’t be entered in the race.

Canada has contributed roughly $500 million over the past 20 years toward developing the F-35, which now is expected to compete against three other aircraft to replace the CF-18s.