Canada to buy used Australia jets while it seeks bids for new fleet

Ottawa, Dec 12, 2017 (AFP) - - Canada announced Tuesday a new competitive procurement process to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets along with the purchase of used Australian aircraft for use in the meantime.

Senior government and military officials said Ottawa will begin consultations with aircraft makers in the coming months before launching the formal bidding for 88 new planes in 2019.

The winning bidder will be expected to partner with Canadian aerospace firms.

A special clause requiring the successful candidate to also cause "no economic harm" to Canada appears aimed at disqualifying Boeing, which riled Ottawa when it launched a trade complaint against the nation's largest manufacturer Bombardier earlier this year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals in 2015 scrapped the previous administration's planned purchase of state-of-the-art -- but costly -- Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets to replace Canada's aging F-18 fleet, even though Canada spent nearly two decades helping to develop the stealth fighter.

In the meantime the government said it would pick up 18 new Boeing Super Hornets to fill an air force interim capability gap.

But that deal fell apart after Boeing filed a trade complaint against Bombardier in an effort to keep Bombardier's new CSeries jetliners out of the US market, resulting in massive duties being imposed on the planes.

"Attempts by Boeing to put tens of thousands of aerospace workers out of work across Canada is not something we look on positively," Trudeau told reporters in October when he went to Washington to press US President Donald Trump on the issue.

"And I certainly mentioned that this was a block to us purchasing any -- making any military procurements from Boeing," he said.

In the meantime, Ottawa hopes to soon finalize the purchase of the 18 Australian aircrafts and parts.

US approvals are needed for the transfer of sensitive US military technology, but since it is from one ally to another this is not expected to pose any problems.

amc/mdo

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