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Canada to choose new fighter jets in coming weeks

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The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A Lockheed photo

OTTAWA (AFP): The Canadian government has said it will choose one of four fighter jets in competition to replace its aging fleet of CF-18s "in the coming weeks."

Critics, however, contend the procurement process -- which was reset in 2012 amid complaints of several manufacturers being shut out of it -- is rigged in favour of the American Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jet.

Over the past 14 months, an independent review panel compiled the costs, capabilities and weaknesses of Boeing's F-18 Super Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault's Rafale and the F-35.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said this week his cabinet would now review the panel's report, which has not been made public. However, reporters were briefed Thursday on the methodology to calculate the pros and cons of the jets in the running.

"Ministers... will make a decision on the path forward to replace the CF-18 fleet in the coming weeks," the government said in a notice.

Opposition leader Tom Mulcair, however, claimed "the prime minister still seems poised to blindly push ahead with the expensive and risky single engine F-35."

Ottawa started the procurement process anew two years ago after coming under fire over the spiralling costs and an apparent lack of transparency and competition in a process that was focused on the F-35, which Canada had spent 15 years helping to develop.

The F-35 has been touted as a technological wonder and the ultimate stealth attack plane able to evade radar detection.

However, it has suffered setback after setback, notably with troublesome software. It is seven years behind schedule with a budget blow-out of USD 167 billion to more than USD 390 billion, making it the costliest weapons programme in US history.

At last count, it involved 72 Canadian companies.

Australia, Britain, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey have also taken part in the development of the jet, along with the United States.

Tags:

Canada  Fighter Jet  F-35  Lockheed  US  Defence  
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