The federal government has moved the goalposts to the other end of the field in the ever more convoluted quest for a new fleet of fighter aircraft. The government released new criteria for a competitive bidding process that reduces the inside track the previous government gave to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Boeing’s F/A-18. The main change is getting rid of a precondition that required the winning bid’s aircraft to seamlessly communicate securely with U.S. military assets. European designs, including Dassault’s Rafale, Airbus’s Typhoon and Sweden’s Gripen don’t come off the shelf with that capability.
Instead of disqualifying those aircraft at the outset, the manufacturers will be able to submit proposals to meet the communications requirements, including any additional cost. “Whatever aircraft we obtain has to be fully, seamlessly interoperable at the highest levels with the American Air Force and the rest of the U.S. defence establishment, which is going to be tougher for Europeans to do than it would be for the Americans,” Dave Perry, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute told the Globe and Mail. “There’s way to do that, but it would also imply additional cost and integration risk.”