The consortium of companies, led by Bombardier, says allowing a Canadian-made plane in a competition to replace the Aurora CP-140 aircraft will create jobs and potentially foreign sales in the future.
A number of leading Canadian aerospace firms have written Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requesting he allow an open competition for a new surveillance plane for the military instead of sole-sourcing the deal to a U.S. company.
The consortium of companies, led by Bombardier, says allowing a Canadian-made plane in the competition to find a replacement for the Aurora CP-140 aircraft will create jobs and potentially foreign sales in the future.
Bombardier and the other companies are challenging Defence Minister Anita Anand‘s decision to champion the Boeing P-8 surveillance aircraft in a sole source deal estimated to cost around $9 billion. In late March, Canada requested initial details from the United States to set the groundwork for ordering P-8s for the Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft (CMMA) project.
“Sole-sourcing a replacement for the RCAF’s Aurora CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft in lieu of an open, fair, transparent competitive procurement does not align with Strong, Secure, Engaged,” the Bombardier consortium noted in its letter referencing the Liberal defence policy. “It will unnecessarily stymie growth and innovation in Canada’s world-renowned aerospace and defence industries. It will not ensure we get the most modern and right-sized solution at the best price, while maximizing economic benefits for Canadians.”
The letter is addressed to Trudeau, deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland, Defence Minister Anand, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne and Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek.
Opening the CMMA to Canadian firms would provide an “opportunity for Canada to re-think its surveillance capabilities. Canadian-built solutions should, and must, be considered on equal footing with foreign-built options,” the companies noted.
The company executives have requested meetings with each of the ministers named in the letter. The letter was signed by executives with Bombardier, General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada, De Havilland Canada, PAL Aerospace, Thales, ATLAS Aeronautik Inc and 10 other firms or aerospace associations.
Bombardier announced May 18 it has teamed with General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada of Ottawa to offer the RCAF a new surveillance plane to replace the current fleet of Auroras. It will offer the air force a fleet of Global 6500 aircraft outfitted with sensors developed by General Dynamics Mission Systems.
Any potential competition would pit Bombardier against its aerospace rival Boeing. In 2017 Trudeau denounced Boeing for efforts to undercut Bombardier in a trade dispute over commercial aircraft. At the time, the prime minister accused Boeing of trying to “put our aerospace workers out of business.”
Public Service and Procurement Canada has noted it believes the Boeing P-8 is the only aircraft that meets the RCAF’s needs. But it also stated that the request to the U.S. for information on the Boeing plane “does not commit Canada to purchasing the P-8A Poseidon, and the project remains in what is called options analysis. The final decision will be based on the capability offered, availability, pricing and benefits to Canadian industry.”
Aerospace industry sources say the Bombardier-General Dynamics teaming hopes to put emphasis on the made-in-Canada solution to the military’s needs. General Dynamics is already responsible for developing the new sensors on board the CP-140 Auroras and the CH-148 Cyclone helicopters. The companies pointed out the Canadian design is already proven and will allow for a low-risk integration of sensors and other systems.
Bombardier is also highlighting that the planes would be built in the Toronto area and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie has promoted that aspect on social media.
Boeing and the U.S. government are also positioning themselves to highlight the role of Canadian firms and the potential economic benefits that would come if the P-8 is selected. At a reception scheduled for next Tuesday in Ottawa, Boeing officials and the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Cohen, will outline the industrial benefits to Canada of a Boeing aircraft purchase. Canadian firms CAE, GE Canada, Honeywell, IMP, KF Aerospace, Raytheon Canada and StandardAero will be represented at that reception.
The P-8 is in service with the U.S. Navy, Indian Navy, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Air Force, Royal Norwegian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, Republic of Korea Navy and German Navy.
The U.S. government is pressuring Canada to boost defence spending, in particular, and acquire more American-built equipment.
In response, Anand has highlighted Canada’s ongoing military equipment projects to U.S. lawmakers, noting Canada is buying the U.S.-built F-35 stealth fighter and will spend tens of billions on joint U.S.-Canadian radar systems and defences. In addition, many of the armaments and ammunition Canada is providing to Ukraine come from U.S. industry via the American government.
But Anand has faced pushback from some Canadian firms who argue she is more interested in creating American jobs than building up domestic aerospace and defence industries.
David Pugliese is an award-winning journalist covering Canadian Forces and military issues in Canada. To support his work, including exclusive content for subscribers only, sign up here: ottawacitizen.com/subscribe