(Adds opposition leader criticizing Trudeau, comments by
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Canada's decision to make it
harder for Boeing Co to win a major jet order hands rival
plane maker Lockheed Martin Corp an advantage in
capturing the contract, defense experts said on Wednesday.
That would mark a reversal in Lockheed's fortunes after
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau campaigned in 2015 on a promise
not to buy the firm's F-35 stealth fighter.
Ottawa on Tuesday scrapped plans to buy 18 Boeing Super
Hornets and made clear the company would not win a contract for
88 jets unless it dropped a trade challenge against Canadian
planemaker Bombardier Inc.
Officials estimate the cost of the jets at between C$15
billion ($11.7 billion) and C$19 billion and say it is the
biggest investment in the air force in 30 years.
Last week Boeing made clear it would not back down in its
fight against Bombardier, which it accuses of trying to dump
airliners on the U.S. market.
The firm may not even launch a bid for the 88 jets, the
first of which are due to be delivered in 2025.
That leaves the F-35, a new aircraft, up against two
European rivals which first flew in the 1990s: the Eurofighter
Typhoon and Dassault Aviation SA's
One defense source noted that the European jets were likely
to become obsolete by around 2040, at which point they could no
longer incorporate the latest technologies.
"The longer this process plays out, the narrower the
government's options become, and the prospects for a European
jet become even dimmer," said the source, who declined to be
identified given the sensitivity of the situation. The Super
Hornet first flew in 1995.
A second defense source said Boeing now had little chance of
winning the 88-plane contract and noted Canada's air force had
long sought an American jet so it could operate easily with the
Neither source works for a company that might make a bid.
The official opposition Conservative Party accused Trudeau
of bungling the matter.
"Will the prime minister take responsibility and admit we
are never going to get new jets?" Conservative leader Andrew
Scheer said in the House of Commons.
Lockheed Martin said it was confident the F-35 was superior
to older competitors. Boeing described the Super Hornet as "the
low-risk, low-cost approach" which could serve Canada's needs
well into the future.
Canada belongs to the nine-nation consortium that helped
fund development of the F-35, which has been hit by years of
delays and cost overruns.
Trudeau initially opposed the F-35 on the grounds that it
was too costly, but Ottawa has since softened its line.
Officials insist the competition will be open and say no
company will be excluded. Yet in a clear swipe at Boeing,
ministers say any bidder deemed to have harmed Canada's economy
will be at a distinct disadvantage.
Boeing accuses Bombardier of imitating Airbus by trying to
muscle into the U.S. market. People familiar with Boeing say the
strategic importance of defending its core passenger jet
business outweighs the fighter dispute.
Jerry Dias, president of the Unifor union, said in a phone
interview he did not think Boeing would react by cutting jobs.
Unifor represents 1,300 workers at a Boeing plant in Winnipeg.
Boeing says its operations support 17,500 Canadian jobs.
($1=1.2865 Canadian dollars)
(Addtional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by
David Gregorio and Cynthia Osterman)
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