Canada on Thursday unveiled plans to buy 18 Boeing Corp Super Hornets as a stop-gap measure while it prepared an open five-year competition to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets.
Procurement Minister Judy Foote told a news conference the government would launch immediate talks with Boeing for the Super Hornets, in a victory for the U.S. plane maker if the order goes ahead.
One defense contractor said the choice could be interpreted as giving Boeing a long-term advantage but Foote, speaking in a phone interview, later said Ottawa would run "a real, open, transparent competition" where any firm could compete.
The decision on how to replace Canada's CF-18 jets - some of which have been flying for 35 years - is politically sensitive and has been repeatedly put off.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the CF-18s could no longer meet Canada's international military commitments.
"Because they were not replaced, we now have a capability gap ... we need additional planes as soon as possible for an interim period," he told the news conference.
The former Conservative administration said in 2010 it would buy 65 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 jets for C$9 billion ($6.7 billion). During last year's successful election campaign, the Liberals vowed not to buy the planes on the grounds they were too costly.