Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

A Canadian Forces CP-140 Aurora aircraft taxis into Camp Canada in Kuwait in 2015 during Operation IMPACT. Bombardier Inc. and General Dynamics Corp. are teaming up on a replacement for the aircraft.The Canadian Press

Bombardier Inc. BBD-B-T and General Dynamics Corp. GD-N, fierce rivals in the manufacturing of business jets, are teaming up in a bid to compel the Canadian government to launch an open tender process for a multibillion-dollar contract to replace the military’s CP-140 Aurora aircraft.

Montreal-based Bombardier is partnering with General Dynamics, one of the world’s biggest defence contractors and the maker of Gulfstream private jets, on a surveillance aircraft with submarine hunting capability, the companies said in a joint statement Thursday. Bombardier is supplying the jet, a modified version of its Global 6500, while General Dynamics contributes much of the “mission systems,” including sonar equipment and satellite communications.

An image rendering of the proposed plane released by the companies shows torpedoes and missiles fitted under the plane’s wings. Such weapons would be supplied by the Canadian government.

“This is a generational opportunity,” for Bombardier to deliver a made-in-Canada solution for the government’s needs, Jean-Christophe Gallagher, the executive leading Bombardier’s defence unit, said in a statement. “[It’s] an opportunity for Canada to foster innovation, bolster its capabilities and support talent across Canada’s aerospace industry from coast to coast to coast.”

Bombardier generates most of its money selling luxury jets to billionaires and charter operators. But it also has a small defence business, consisting of specialized aircraft used by governments for intelligence, reconnaissance and other applications. The company is aiming to expand the unit significantly in the years ahead as Armed Forces budgets climb in tandem with increasing geopolitical uncertainty.

Bombardier chief executive officer Eric Martel has voiced his opposition to the possibility that the Canadian government would shun a competitive bidding process and buy Boeing Co.’s P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance jets from the U.S. plane maker in a sole-source contract. Boeing has told Canada that it could stop building the plane in 2025 if additional orders aren’t placed.

The aircraft would replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s aging CP-140 Aurora planes.

Open this photo in gallery:

Bombardier Business Aircraft debuts its new Global 6500 jet at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition, in Geneva, Switzerland, May 27, 2018. Bombardier is supplying a modified version of the jet to replace the Canadian military’s surveillance aircraft.HANDOUT/Reuters

The federal government has said it is still analyzing its options for the airplane replacement effort, known as the Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft project. In March, Public Services and Procurement Canada said it sent a request through the U.S. foreign military sales program to explore the viability of buying 16 Boeing P-8A Poseidons, a move some analysts are interpreting as proof its mind is made up.

“Following engagements with industry and Canada’s closest allies, the government has determined that the P-8A Poseidon is the only currently available aircraft that meets all of the Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft operational requirements, namely anti-submarine warfare and C4ISR,” the March statement said. A final decision on buying the Boeing aircraft will be based on the “capability offered, availability, pricing and benefits to Canadian industry,” the department said.

Sometimes described as the “nervous system” of modern military forces, C4ISR is a group of communications and computer networks that collects data from a variety of sources to gain situational awareness – an understanding of the environment and enemy movements. The data are transformed into usable information to help plot strategies.

Bombardier boosts financial targets, sees revenue topping US$9-billion by 2025

Canada has articulated plans to replace its CP-140 Aurora fleet as far back as 2017 but Boeing’s warning appears to have increased its urgency. The planes, made by Lockheed Martin, have been flying since the 1980s and are scheduled to be retired from service in 2030. Buying a new fleet is necessary to make sure the military has the equipment it needs to protect Canadian sovereignty along the coastline, the government has said.

While Bombardier is a Canadian manufacturer and Boeing is based in the United States, both companies are trumpeting their local connections and say they will deliver benefits that will stoke Canada’s aerospace and defence industry. Boeing’s partners include CAE Inc., GE Aviation Canada and IMP Aerospace and Defence. Bombardier is working General Dynamics Mission Systems Canada, an Ottawa-based unit of the defence giant with a long history in the country.

What could play in Boeing’s favour is the P-8A Poseidon’s mid-air refuelling capability, trade publication Defense News said. The fact that several of its closest military allies fly the jet is also a big plus, including the United States and all other members of the Five Eyes intelligence pact.

Bombardier’s Global jet is a newer model however, and the company is emphasizing the advantages of its next-generation technology and fuel efficiency. General Dynamics, meanwhile, says its mission systems have been continually upgraded and remain the best in the world.

The aircraft that Bombardier and General Dynamics is offering will meet the Canadian military’s requirements and offer “significantly more economic benefit to Canada” than the Boeing proposal, General Dynamics spokesperson Lorena MacKenzie said. There’s also an opportunity for Canada to export the plane to buyers in other countries, according to the company.

Bombardier and Boeing have a thorny recent history. In 2016, the two companies clashed in a high-profile trade dispute that pitted the U.S. against Canada. Boeing claimed Bombardier cheated U.S. trade rules by selling CSeries jets to Delta Air Lines Inc. at “absurdly low prices” while benefiting from unfair subsidies from the Canadian and Quebec governments.

The issue escalated and Ottawa threatened to scrap plans to buy 18 fighter jets from Boeing in retaliation. In the end, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled against Boeing and rival Airbus SE eventually took over the CSeries program.

Follow Nicolas Van Praet on Twitter: @NickVanPraetOpens in a new window

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct

Tickers mentioned in this story

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles