The Canadian government on Tuesday released a final request for proposals (RFP) for 88 new aircraft to replace its aging fleet of CF-18 Hornets.

The RFP was released by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and was sent to Sweden’s Saab, offering the Gripen E; Airbus, offering the Eurofighter Typhoon; Lockheed Martin [LMT], pitching the F-35; and Boeing [BA], bidding the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

F/A-18 Hornet (Photo: Boeing)

The Canadian government said the suppliers have until spring 2020 to submit their initial proposals. PSPC said this timeline followed “extensive engagement” with industry and eligible suppliers over the last 18 months.

“This is the most significant investment in the Royal Canadian Air Force in more than 30 years. With it, the government will deliver the aircraft that meet Canada’s needs, while ensuring good value for Canadians,” the agency said.

“This investment will mean that the Royal Canadian Air Force has what it needs to protect Canadians. It is essential that we get the right equipment that will serve our women and men in uniform for decades to come,” Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, said in a statement.

The government is providing offerors two opportunities to demonstrate they can present a plan meeting their requirements. A security offer is due in fall 2019. After receiving feedback from the government, bidders can revise and resubmit their offers in spring 2020.

Proposal evaluation, including revisions, is expected to finish with a contract award in early 2022, while the first aircraft is expected to be delivered by 2025.

Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Carla Qualtrough said in a statement the government “is delivering on its promise to replace Canada’s fighter jet fleet through an open and transparent competition.”

“Today marks an important step in the process that will provide the women and men of the Royal Canadian Air Force with the aircraft they need to help ensure the safety and security of Canadians, at the right price and with the most economic benefit to Canada,” she added.

PSPC said bidders will also be able to address deficiencies in their proposals related to mandatory criteria.

“Rather than being rejected immediately for not meeting mandatory requirements, bidders will receive feedback from Canada so that they can address non-compliance. This approach has already been used for other large federal procurements and has proven to be successful in maintaining a high level of competition,” the agency said.

Proposals will be assessed based on technical merit (60 percent), cost (20 percent), and economic benefits (20 percent). PSPC noted this procurement will attribute one of the highest ever weightings to economic benefits for Canada.

Suppliers are required to provide a plan for economic benefits equal to the proposed contract, with maximum points only awarded to suppliers providing contractual guarantees.

A Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. (Photo: Eurofighter Consortium)

Canada currently operates 76 older model F/A-18 Hornets reaching the end of their service lives. The previous Canadian government planned to buy F-35s as the new aircraft, but during his election campaign in 2015, Justin Trudeau promised not to buy the aircraft. However, Trudeau said his government would hold an open competition.

Canada previously planned to buy 18 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets worth $5.2 billion as an interim measure before this full replacement competition (Defense Daily, Sept. 14, 2017).

However, in late 2017 the government revealed a plan to acquire 18 Australian F-18 Hornets in the interim after getting into a trade dispute with the U.S. (Defense Daily, Dec. 12, 2017).

In the dispute Boeing began a trade challenge against Canada’s Bombardier in the U.S. over allegations it sold a commercial airliner at an artificially low price. In response, the Canadian government passed over the interim Super Hornets in favor of the older Australian models. (Defense Daily, Dec. 8, 2017).

The U.S. International Trade Commission eventually found in favor of Bombardier, preventing any U.S. duties on Bombardiers, as first proposed.

Upon launching the first phase of the competition to replace all of the CF-18s in December 2017, PSPC said bid evaluations would disadvantage any bidders harming to Canada’s economic interests, an apparent warning directed at Boeing.

Then, last year, PSPC listed five eligible suppliers permitted to compete, which included the four receivers of the RFP above and France’s Dassault (Defense Daily, Feb. 23, 2018).

In 2018, Boeing Vice President for the F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler programs Dan Gillian said Canada was one of the places that showed international interest in the Super Hornet, despite the previous dispute (Defense Daily, May 25, 2018).

“My job is to present the best Super Hornet to replace the Canadian forces. I think we are a great fit for that. We have responded to the initial inquiries and we’ve been accepted in the fighter competition,” Gillian said.