French manufacturer Dassault Aviation has withdrawn its Rafale fighter from Canada’s fighter replacement program.
The withdrawal reportedly comes after Dassault raised concerns over its ability to meet Canada’s interoperability and intelligence sharing requirements.
“On November 8, the French government officially notified Canada of its withdrawal from the competitive process to replace Canada’s fighter jet fleet,” a Public Services and Procurement Canada spokesperson told DefenseNews.
“We will continue to work closely with the remaining eligible suppliers to ensure they are well-positioned to participate in the ongoing competition.”
Canada is seeking 88 new combat aircraft to replace its fleet of CF-18 Hornets, and draft industry responses were required to have been submitted by the end of the year. Dassault’s Rafale was expected to be a leading contender along with the Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab JAS-38E/F Gripen, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35.
Despite being a founding partner in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program which developed the F-35, Canada paused its planned acquisition of that aircraft in 2014 following the election of the Trudeau government. An interim order for 18 Super Hornets was subsequently placed but was cancelled last year after a trade disagreement with Boeing and the US Government over tax subsidies and pricing of the Bombardier CSeries (now Airbus A220) airliner which is built in Canada.
Canada has a requirement for a package of guaranteed industry offset work for whatever new aircraft it selects, and this may have been another factor in Dassault’s decision to withdraw.
Formal bids for the new combat aircraft are expected to be submitted to the Canadian government by May 2019 for a decision in early 2020, and first deliveries from 2025.
In the interim, Canada will acquire between 18 and 25 former RAAF F/A-18A/B ‘classic’ Hornets from 2019 to bolster the RCAF’s CF-18 ranks until the replacement aircraft enters service.