Canada is on track to choose a new fighter next year despite COVID-19

Ottawa — Canada’s top military procurement officials say the federal government will finally end a decade-long investigation of new fighters for the Royal Canadian Air Force next year, despite challenges and delays from the pandemic. He says he is optimistic.

Last summer, three fighter aircraft manufacturers submitted bids to provide the military with 88 new aircraft to replace the aging CF-18 of the Air Force. Government evaluators are currently busy evaluating these proposals to determine the one that best suits Canada’s needs.

The government hoped to complete the evaluation process later this year and sign a contract with one of the bidders in 2022. The first jet will be delivered in 2025 and the last jet will arrive in 2032.

Despite recent problems with the process thanks to COVID-19, Troy Crosby, Deputy Minister of Defense for Materials, said authorities would meet that schedule and ultimately pick a winner next year. It states that it is proceeding smoothly.

“It’s a project where COVID has created some challenges,” Crosby said in an exclusive interview with the Canadian Press.

“Nevertheless, I think the assessment is still complete this year, and it will be possible to conclude whatever agreement or contract will result in next year 2022.”

The aircraft competing for the CF-18 replacement are Lockheed Martin’s F-35, Boeing Super Hornet and Saab Gripen.

Next year’s successful selection of new fighters will be the culmination of more than a decade of stop-start efforts characterized by mismanagement and political controversy under two consecutive federal governments.

COVID-19 poses the latest threat to the process, as fighter makers scrambled to complete the proposal while keeping staff safety and confidential information private, so more than to submit a bid to the government last year. Requested a lot of time.

Pandemics are also causing problems for those who value bids, Crosby said.

“A lot of information is categorized,” he said. “To do that, we need to take people to work, and we have to be very careful and careful about it. But the team doing the evaluation has made great strides, We have made remarkable progress. “

This includes providing the opportunity to return to bidders recently to clarify some points of the proposal and provide missing information in much the same way as any other military procurement project. It will be.

As the CF-18 approaches the end of their lives, authorities are in time to finish their work early rather than late.

The last aircraft was scheduled to retire last year, but Ottawa has invested to continue flying for another 10 years, largely due to delays in purchasing replacements.

All of the 76 CF-18s and 18 F-18s that Canada purchased from Australia, according to Crosby, are currently in the process of upgrading their avionics over the next few years. 36 will receive further upgrades to the combat system.

The total cost of that effort is expected to be approximately $ 1.3 billion.

Regarding Australian aircraft, Crosby said 15 of the 18 were delivered. Currently, three are flying with the Air Force, while the rest are being upgraded and modified to meet the needs of Canada.

By Lee Berthiaume

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