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Ottawa's planned fighter competition incompatible with F-35 obligations: U.S.

U.S. officials have warned the Trudeau government that its plan to hold an open competition to replace its aging CF-18s is incompatible with Canada's obligations as a member of the F-35 stealth fighter program. The unveiling of the first F-35 fighter plane to be delivered to the Netherlands, which is partnering with the United States in the fighter program, at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Max Faulkner

OTTAWA — U.S. officials have warned the Trudeau government that its plan to hold an open competition to replace its aging CF-18s is incompatible with Canada’s obligations as a member of the F-35 stealth-fighter program.

The warnings are in two letters sent to the government last year that were obtained by defence analyst Richard Shimooka and released in a report published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute think-tank.

The letters specifically take issue with the government’s plan to have each fighter-jet maker commit to re-investing in Canada if its aircraft wins the upcoming competition aimed at buying 88 new planes for $19 billion.

While that is standard for most Canadian military procurements, the U.S. officials note that Canada agreed not to apply such a requirement when it signed on as one of nine F-35 partner countries in 2006.

Companies in those countries are instead allowed to compete for work associated with the plane, and the U.S. officials say imposing requirements as a condition to bid will mean the F-35 won’t be entered in the race.

Canada has contributed roughly $500 million over the past 20 years toward developing the F-35, which now is expected to compete against three other aircraft to replace the CF-18s.

The Canadian Press