Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

An RCAF CF-18 takes off from CFB Bagotville, on June 7, 2018.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

COVID-19 is presenting another challenge to Canada’s long-running and tumultuous effort to buy new fighter jets.

The federal government last summer launched a long-awaited competition to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s aging CF-18s with 88 new fighter jets at an estimated cost of $19 billion. The move followed a decade of controversy and mismanagement by various governments.

The three companies still in the running are supposed to submit their bids at the end of June and, despite the pandemic, the federal procurement department insisted in an email to The Canadian Press that it still expects them to meet that deadline.

Story continues below advertisement

The three companies vying for the lucrative contract are Lockheed Martin and Boeing from the U.S. and Sweden’s Saab. Lockheed Martin builds the F-35 while Boeing is pitching its Super Hornet and Saab is offering its Gripen jet.

Yet while representatives for the three companies say they are likewise plugging away at their respective proposals, a senior Boeing executive left the door open to asking the government for an extension as COVID-19 forces the company to adjust how it does business.

“It’s challenging, there’s no question about it,” Jim Barnes, the Boeing executive responsible for trying to sell the company’s Super Hornet jet to Canada, said in an interview on Tuesday.

“We want to make sure we put the most competitive offer on the table for the government of Canada to evaluate and we feel like we can put a very compelling offer. If we feel like we don’t have time to finalize that competitive offer ... we would certainly ask for an extension.”

The government has already approved one extension to the competition since it was launched last July. Companies were supposed to submit their final bids at the end of March, but were given three more months after Saab asked for more time.

Boeing continues to work closely with the U.S. government and navy on its bid and hopes to meet the current deadline, but Barnes said the pandemic has slowed things down as many staff work from home on a complex project with significant security considerations.

“Then you have to take into consideration the health of your subject-matter experts in those areas where there are just a few people that can really work up those responses,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

“Those kinds of things we’re dealing with. I’m not sure if the other teams are dealing with that, but we are monitoring that and if we feel like we can’t meet the deadline, we’ll certainly consider an extension request as an option.”

Representatives for Lockheed Martin and Saab were more confident in being able to meet the current deadline.

“Lockheed Martin remains prepared to provide a comprehensive proposal for Canada’s future fighter capability project competition,” Lockheed Martin Canada chief executive Lorraine Ben said in a statement.

“We have not requested an extension of delivery for the FFCP preliminary proposal and we are excited to share more about the F-35’s ability to strengthen and modernize defence, enhance ally partnerships and contribute to economic growth in Canada.”

Saab Canada president Simon Carroll expressed similar sentiments, saying in an interview that while there some challenges in preparing a bid during a pandemic, “we’re certainly working towards that and are planning at this point in time to submit in accordance with that deadline.”

Yet there are also questions about the government’s ability to move ahead on the project even if the companies do get their bids in on time, given the majority of federal employees are working at home.

Story continues below advertisement

“Those submissions are going to have a combination of sensitive and classified information, and handling all that with a workforce, the majority of which is working from home, is going to be more difficult,” said defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“I think as a basic bottom line, it is completely illogical to think that the impacts of COVID-19 won’t be running through the entire suite of defence procurements because you can’t work as efficiently with a huge chunk of your workforce at home.”

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies