Harper government asks F-35 rivals for information on what their fighters can do

Associated Press

OTTAWA - A questionnaire meant to gauge what options exist to replace the air force's aging CF-18 fighters has landed on the desks of aerospace companies in North America and Europe.

The 15-page survey is considered the first step in evaluating whether the Harper government should bail out of the planned F-35 purchase with U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin.

It is considered a "draft" and asks potential rivals to outline the capabilities of their aircraft, but does not request detailed cost information.

That will come in a follow-up survey next month.

Lockheed Martin has been asked to fill out the survey along with other potential bidders including: U.S-based Boeing with its Super Hornet; EADS Eurofighter, also known as the Typhoon; Dassault, which is selling its French-built Rafale; and the Saab-manufactured Gripen from Sweden.

The request for information falls short of the demand by critics and the Opposition to open the replacement program to a full-fledged competition, but is part of the government's promise to review all of the potential options to replace the CF-18s.

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