The long effort to replace Canada's aging fighter jets took another surprise twist on Tuesday, as multiple sources revealed that French fighter-jet maker Dassault is pulling out of the multibillion-dollar competition.
The decision comes just over a week after the federal government published the military's requirements for a replacement for Canada's CF-18s as well as a draft process by which a winning supplier will be chosen.
Dassault had repeatedly pitched its Rafale aircraft to Canada over the years as successive governments in Ottawa have wrestled with selecting a new fighter jet. Dassault's pitch included significant promises, including that it would assemble the planes in Canada.
But sources tell The Canadian Press that Dassault's decision to withdraw was related to the fact France is not a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, which counts the U.S., Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada as members. The five members have very specific requirements for how their equipment works together.
The move leaves four companies — U.S. aerospace giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing, European competitor Airbus and Swedish firm Saab — competing for the $19-billion contract to replace Canada's 76 CF-18s with 88 new fighters.