Bid-rigging alleged in F-35 contract

March 27, 2012 at 10:20 PM
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OTTAWA, March 27 (UPI) -- Opposition lawmakers in Canada Tuesday questioned whether the Harper government followed the rules in ordering 65 F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin.

Questions about the bidding process came after the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported a previously undisclosed Defense Ministry document showed the mandatory requirements for the country's next-generation fighter to replace its aging CF-18s were written in June 2010, just one month before Defense Minister Peter MacKay announced a deal with the U.S. aircraft manufacturer.

The document revealed at least one of the 28 mandatory requirements is not met by the F-35, the CBC said. The network said the fighter fails to meet the standard, stated in the document, that it must allow the helmeted pilot a 360-degree, out-of-cockpit visual situational awareness in a no-light environment.

New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair charged the government created a "bogus bidding process."

"They tried to rig the process by defining something that only one plane could meet," Mulcair told reporters. "It's a very old strategy in government procurement, but even there we're now finding out the F-35 doesn't meet the bogus requirements that they were setting out in their rigged bid."

NDP Member of Parliament Matthew Kellway said the government tabled a response to an order paper question Monday, the same day the CBC story aired, that said the F-35 meets all of the military's stated requirements.

"Which document is the truth? The one for public consumption or the one kept secret?" Kellway asked.

Deputy Defense Minister Julian Fantino said the contract has not yet been signed "and we will make sure that the air force and the men and women there have the necessary tools to do their job and that's the bottom line."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, reached in South Korea where he attended a nuclear summit, said Canada participated in the F-35 development program for 15 years and the aerospace industry has received "hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts" as a result.

"We haven't yet signed a contract, as you know, we retain that flexibility but we are committed to continuing our aerospace sector's participation in the development of the F-35," Harper said.

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