DND Pushes Quick Plane Deal
Date: Wednesday, January 03 2007
Globe and Mail Update
OTTAWA — The Canadian Forces are preparing to spend billions of dollars buying search-and-rescue aircraft through a process that has excluded all but one bid.
The Italian-built Spartan C27J aircraft has been pegged by sources as the only aircraft ready for purchase to replace the Buffalo and Hercules aircraft that currently cover Canada's forests, mountains and coastline.
The old Liberal government announced funding in 2004 for new fixed-wing aircraft and the Department of National Defence is moving to launch the formal process to acquire the aircraft, which were due to be in service by last year.
A DND document obtained by The Globe and Mail confirmed that only one aircraft is being considered as a “viable bidder” for the search-and-rescue contract. The project is worth about $3-billion, including the maintenance of the aircraft over 20 years.
Defence contracts are among the most lucrative deals the government signs, and if the Spartan is bought, it will illustrate a growing government habit of signing multibillion-dollar deals without accepting competing bids.
Last year, Ottawa purchased 16 Chinook helicopters for $2.7-billion, four C17 cargo airplanes for $3.4-billion, and 17 C130J Hercules transport planes for $5-billion. In all these cases, only the winning bid was considered.
In the upcoming search-and-rescue competition, the builders of a rival aircraft, the Spanish C295, are engaged in intense lobbying in Ottawa to change the requirements in the hope of qualifying for the competition.
Their plane is used in a number of countries for search-and-rescue operations, but it cannot meet the current requirements established by the Canadian Forces. The company is frustrated that it has even been prevented from showing its C295 to Defence officials.
“We're interested in a fair, open and transparent competition,” said Martin Sefzig of EADS-CASA, the company behind the C295.
“We want to have a chance to show the aircraft.”
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 4, 2007]