The federal government has pushed back the deadline for bids on replacing the RCAF’s CF-18 fighters by three months to June 30 and it appears Saab requested the extension. The Swedish company is the only European bidder in the three-way competition with its Gripen. Both Lockheed Martin (F-35) and Boeing (F/A-18) have said they didn’t ask for more time but Saab didn’t comment on whether it asked for the extension. For its part, the government said the extension was granted to allow “eligible suppliers to address recent feedback on their security offers, ensuring that Canada receives competitive proposals that meet its technical, cost and economic benefits requirements.”
The challenge for Saab is that its airplane doesn’t come off the shelf with the communications and data transfer gear that Canada’s new fighter will need to operate seamlessly with U.S. aircraft, particularly as part of its NORAD commitments. Canada also requires that the new fighter be able to receive coded information through the so-called Five Eyes intelligence network. Sweden is not part of Five Eyes (other members are the U.K., U.S., Australia and New Zealand) so adding that capability might also be a challenge.