Saab complains that Ottawa is already discussing with Lockheed the purchase of the F-35 fighters

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Saab complains that Ottawa is already discussing with Lockheed the purchase of the F-35 fighters

The Gripen during a demonstration, in 2017, at the air show in Bangalore, India

Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab complains that Ottawa is already talking to Washington and the American giant Lockheed Martin to buy the F-35 fighter, and he believes that such discussions were not supposed to be part of the bidding process for new Canadian fighter jets .

The Liberal government announced last March that the F-35 had edged out Saab's Gripen aircraft in the $19 billion bidding process to buy 88 new fighters, which are to replace the aging CF-18s.

Ministers then entered into final negotiations with Washington and the manufacturer of the F-35, the American company Lockheed Martin, to determine the final cost, timetable of delivery and the economic benefits of this device for Canadian businesses.

Ministers, however, clarified at the time that the F-35 deal was not finalized, with the Canadian government reserving the possibility of discussing with Saab if talks with Lockheed Martin were to proceed. x27;bogged down.

However, in a Thursday appearance before a Commons committee, Saab Canada president Simon Carroll argued that he should not nothing to negotiate at this stage of the tender.

“Recent government statements have indicated that Canada is negotiating costs, delivery schedule and economic benefits with our competitor.

— Simon Carroll, President of Saab Canada

There should be no negotiation on these critical elements. Those elements of the bidders' response were to be engaged and then evaluated as part of the bidding process, he argued before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

Mr. Carroll later accused the government of not respecting the process that was presented to Saab.

Public Services and Procurement Canada spokeswoman Michèle LaRose said Friday that the department was following the steps presented to companies when they were invited to submit their bid. The finalization phase is still ongoing and is being executed as specified in the tender documents, LaRose said. During this phase, the top-ranking bidder must then demonstrate that a potential contract would meet all of Canada's requirements.

Lockheed Martin declined to comment, claiming that it would be inappropriate, given the ongoing negotiations.

When the government announced the opening of negotiations for Lockheed Martin's F-35 in March, Defense Minister Anita Anand described the process as “rigorous”. Still, a senior procurement official indicated that the scope of the negotiations would still be quite broad.

“We need to discuss capacity requirements, costs, deadlines […] So there are still a lot of parameters and variables to discuss with the company. »

— Simon Page, Assistant Deputy Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada

As for the projected $19 billion bill, an amount the government first announced in 2017 , Ms Anand said it would be “further refined”.

And while officials at the time expressed optimism that a deal would be signed by the end of 2022, for delivery of the first F-35 by 2025, Lockheed said negotiations could extend into next year, with the first fighter delivered in 2026, at the earliest.

Retired Colonel Alan Stephenson, who is now a defense analyst for the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says talks between Ottawa, Washington and Lockheed Martin have been opaque, with few updates. day or details. But he also points out that if Saab really feels aggrieved by the bidding process, it could always turn to the Federal Court or the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.

They're playing a bit of a game here, says the retired colonel.

Saab spokeswoman Sierra Fullerton, did not answer on Friday whether the Swedish automaker had filed a legal challenge or whether it intended to.

“As noted during our appearance [Thursday], Saab has provided firm commitments to Canada on pricing, delivery timing and economic benefits for Canadian industry. We support this offer.

—Sierra Fullerton, Saab Spokesperson

As to why such “details,” such as cost and delivery schedule, were not included in the F-35 bid, ex-Colonel Stephenson said that x27;it is much more complex to buy military equipment than pencils, given the various factors that must be taken into account.

Regarding As far as the F-35 is concerned, this includes the fact that Canada is just one of many countries interested in the aircraft. This means that both parties must determine when the first Canadian aircraft will be delivered, which affects the price.

Philippe Lagassé, professor at Carleton University , which has previously been tasked by the government with overseeing military procurement plans, said Saab's remaining in the running while those details are ironed out with Lockheed Martin is already an improvement over previous acquisitions. /p>

In my opinion, this is a lesson learned from past purchases, he said. If all of this is discussed after the winner is announced, Canada loses a lot of bargaining power.

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