Saab has withdrawn from the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) multi-billion-dollar programme, which seeks to replace the air force’s ageing CF-18 Horner fighter aircraft fleet.
Saab spokeswoman Karin Walka was quoted by defense-aerospace.com as saying in an e-mailed statement that the company has participated with interest in discussions and evaluation process but is pulling out due to belief that "the conditions were not yet ripe for us to act".
”As the customer continues to mature their process and further define the way forward, Saab will re-evaluate this decision, based on our assessment the Government of Canada’s requirements, to see if and how Saab can take part in the continuing process as well as the applicability of any potential Saab solution,” Walka noted without providing reason for the withdrawal.
However, the move is expected to have resulted from a belief that Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II aircraft is being preferred over other competitors, which include Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F-18E, Dassault Rafale, and Saab Gripen.
Companies competing against the F-35 fighter have voiced concerns over the way the options are being validated and have suggested that the aircraft continues to enjoy a distinct advantage despite the government’s promise to reset the project, Postmedia News has reported.
The Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) had originally committed to acquire 65 F-35s, but backtracked after the auditor general’s report and revelations that the fighter may cost over $45bn for purchase and operation in December 2012.
In an effort to restore public confidence and reset process, the government then transferred the project responsibility from DND to National Fighter Procurement Secretariat, which has since issued a questionnaire to companies seeking detailed technical information on competing aircraft in support of rigorous evaluations last month.
However, manufacturers are still dubious regarding the competition’s fairness, with Dassault senior vice-president Yves Robins saying: ”The best proof that this is a genuine process would be arriving at the end of this year with a decision to really open a competition.”
Image: An RCAF’s CF-18 Hornet during its flight. Photo: Courtesy of Patcard.