The government of Canada has released a formal request for proposals (RFP) to four companies to replace its CF-18 (CF-188) Hornets in service from 2025.
The RFPs have been issued to Saab for its JAS-39E/F Gripen; Airbus Defense and Space for the Eurofighter Typhoon; Lockheed Martin for the F-35A Lightning II, and Boeing for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
Dassault had originally intended to offer its Rafale fighter for the Canadian requirement, but withdrew from the competition in 2018 as it felt it could not meet Canada’s strict industrial offset requirements.
The new aircraft will replace a similar number of CF-18 Hornets which were acquired in in the early to mid-1980s and have been extensively upgraded over the years, and which are being bolstered by 25 former Australian F/A-18A/Bs as they are retired from the RAAF.
“The procurement of a fleet of 88 future fighter aircraft is an essential step forward that our government committed to in Strong, Secure, Engaged,” Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Harjit S. Sajjan said in the statement. “This investment will mean that the Royal Canadian Air Force has what it needs to protect Canadians. It is essential that we get the right equipment that will serve our women and men in uniform for decades to come.”
The respondents have until the northern “fall 2019” to submit their first proposals according to a Canadian government release, after which they will be given a further opportunity to fine tune their proposals which will be assessed on the basis of technical merit (60 per cent), cost (20 per cent) and economic benefits (20 per cent).
“Canada will provide two opportunities for all bidders to demonstrate that they can present a plan to meet Canada’s security and interoperability requirements,” the release reads. “The security offer is due in fall 2019, and following feedback from Canada, bidders may revise and resubmit that offer as part of the initial proposal in spring 2020.”
The security and interoperability requirements will include suppliers being able to provide a plan for economic benefits equal to the value of their proposed contract, with maximum points being awarded to suppliers who provide contractual guarantees. The new aircraft will also require a proven ability to integrate seamlessly with the forces of Canada’s allies through commitments such as the North American Air Defence (NORAD) arrangement with the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
A contract award is expected in early-2022, and the first aircraft could ether service as early as 2025. The CF-18s and ex-RAAF F/A-18s are expected to serve until 2032.
Canada remains a Tier 2 partner in the multi-national Joint Strike Fighter program which spawned the F-35. But while its industry continues to provide components into the JSF program for all F-35 operators, Canada has paused its involvement in the acquisition part of the program following the Trudeau Government’s election in late 2015 on the back of a promise to re-assess its participation.
In 2016 the Trudeau Government selected an interim capability of 18 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets from Boeing while it launched a new competitive evaluation of possible replacement fighters. But the Super Hornet acquisition was cancelled in 2017 in response to a complaint by Boeing to the US Commerce Department over what it said were unfair Canadian Government subsidies of commercial manufacturer Bombardier’s new CSeries airliner. Boeing’s complaint was subsequently dismissed by the US federal trade tribunal in early 2018, while the CSeries line was sold to Airbus and is now being marketed as the Airbus A220.