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Boeings on the shopping list?

A US Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft at Perth International Airport in Australia.

A US Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft at Perth International Airport in Australia.

REUTERS/Jason Reed

On Tuesday, the US State Department approved the possible sale of up to 16 Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to Canada for about $6 billion. The approval opens the door to a deal, and Ottawa has said the Poseidon is the only one available that meets its operational requirements, but it has not confirmed it will buy the aircraft. Canadian manufacturer Bombardier would prefer that PM Justin Trudeau’s government buy its planes instead.

Why new planes? Canada submitted a request to the US in March asking it to offer the American-built surveillance aircraft with a view to replacing its aging fleet of Lockheed CP-140 Auroras.

Getting new kit to better patrol its vast coastal waters couldn’t hurt. The Boeing bid dropped just weeks after the US Air Force shot down a Chinese spy balloon in Canadian airspace in February and amid increasingly aggressive Chinese and Russian military postures.

Ottawa is also facing pressure to ramp up security in the Arctic, where Canada and its Nordic allies have had to suspend cooperation with Russia in the Arctic Council following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Leaders of the northern territories are also worried about Canada’s ability to enforce its sovereignty in its vast northern spaces.

Canadian defense hawks are eager for Trudeau to boost military spending. And whether Canada buys from Boeing or Bombardier – negotiations will take months, if not years – it's facing intense pressure from the US and other NATO allies to boost military spending, which is currently at 1.4% of GDP, well below the bloc’s 2% target.


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