April 11, 2012
Choosing F-35 without competition the international norm
By Daniel Proussalidis, Parliamentary Bureau
OTTAWA – Calls are growing louder for the Conservative government to restart the process of replacing the aging CF-18 fighter jets through an open competition with bids from plane manufacturers, instead of pushing toward the F-35 purchase.
“It shouldn’t have even been a sole-source (project),” said NDP defence critic David Christopherson on Wednesday. “If (the F-35) was that great a deal, it would have won the competition hands-down, lickety-split, no problem.”
The Liberals have repeated similar demands.
Still, Canada is in good company in not holding a competition to choose the stealth fighter jet.
Among F-35 partners, only Denmark is holding a competition to choose a replacement for its aging F-16 fighters.
Lt.-Col. Per Lyse Rasmussen, the Danish assistant defence attaché, said the competition is on hold for now, but will resume after the summer provided there are no changes in the government’s plans to choose a fighter jet before the end of 2014.
Right now, Lockheed-Martin’s F-35, the Saab Gripen and the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet are in contention.
The F-35 is heavily favoured in the Netherlands to replace the country’s F-16s, though.
Col. Frits Stam, the Dutch defence attaché, confirmed there was no formal competition there.
“Two candidate comparisons were carried out, one in 2001 and the other in 2008,” said Stam.
The first comparison found the F-35 to be “the best aircraft for the best price.”
A smaller 2008 comparison still favoured the F-35, with the F-18 losing marks for higher maintenance costs due to its double engines.
Italy, Norway, Australia, and Turkey also lined up to buy the F-35 without formal competitions, though how many planes they ultimately buy will depend on budgets.
The U.K. was an original partner nation with the U.S. in the development of an all-purpose stealth fighter like the F-35.
Canada announced in 2010 it would replace the CF-18 with the F-35.
The auditor general has criticized the Department of National Defence for failing to adequately justify its choice.