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Allies to be consulted in CF-18 replacement

OTTAWA - Defence sources say the agency overseeing the replacement of the country's CF-18s intends to talk to the U.S., Australia and Britain as it conducts a full-fledged options analysis into the future of Canada's fast fighter fleet.

That review will also include consultation with competitors to the oft-maligned F-35 stealth fighter. It will get underway soon and could last several months.

In the House of Commons this week, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose said that the air force's statement of requirements — the document that set out what the military says it needs for selected pieces of equipment — will be set aside until an options analysis is completed.

The process usually happens in reverse. The military defines what it needs and then, in conjunction with public works, conducts an analysis of what it out there and how the capability can be filled.

National Defence and to a lesser extent public works was accused last spring by the auditor general of not doing their homework when it chose to proceed with the multi-billion-dollar proposal to buy the F-35 from Lockheed Martin.

Defence officials were also chastised for lobbying for the stealth fighter even before they wrote the formal statement of requirements, which contained 28 necessary capabilities including weapons and censors. None of the F-35's rivals were contacted, including Boeing and Eurofighter.

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