The politically charged competition to replace Canada's aging fleet of fighter jets will rocket forward at the end of May as the federal government releases a long-anticipated, full-fledged tender call.
There are four companies in the running: Saab of Sweden, Airbus Defence and Space out of Britain, and the American firms Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Once the request for proposals is released, the manufacturers will have until the end of the year to submit bids, defence and industry sources told CBC News.
It was the former Conservative government that kicked off the effort to replace the three-decade-old CF-18s in 2010, an attempt that was shot down in a dispute over the way the F-35 fighter was selected.
The program became mired in politics when the Liberals promised during the 2015 election campaign not to buy the stealth jet. A final decision will now have to wait until after this fall's election.
The competition comes at a time of renewed geopolitical rivalry between the West and Russia and China, and the chief of the Swedish Air Force says his fighters have been busier than ever.
Maj.-Gen. Mats Helgesson said Sweden, which has a long history of being a neutral and non-aligned country, has over the past few years found its airspace violated more frequently by both Russian and NATO warplanes.
That has required a stepped-up state of readiness for the country's Gripen fighter jet squadrons.
"When we look around our borders, especially over the Baltic Sea, we can see increased activity, not only Russia but also NATO," Helgesson told CBC News in an interview.
"We see exercises. We see daily training and we also see intelligence gathering in a way that we haven't seen for many years." (end of excerpt)
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