Dassault Aviation has pulled its Rafale fighter jet out of Canada’s CF-18 replacement competition, expressing concerns about interoperability and intelligence sharing requirements for Ottawa’s future fighter.
The concern appears to stem primarily from the fact that Canadian aircraft require a deep level of integration with U.S. systems due to joint North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) missions. Canadian and U.S. aircraft work together through NORAD to patrol and defend the continent, meaning that Canada’s aircraft must be able to seamlessly communicate with U.S. forces in the air and on the ground.
Dassault, with its headquarters in France, may also be hindered by the fact that it is not a part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance that comprises Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. While the Five Eyes alliance doesn’t necessarily have a direct impact on acquisition programs, the pact is emblematic of the very close ties among participation nations that permeate the national security space.
With the Rafale out of the running, the remaining contenders are the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35, and Saab Gripen. However, there is no guarantee that the four remaining aircraft will be entered into the competition. A final solicitation will be released next year, with bids due in May 2019.