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Rival jet-fighter makers crank up hard sell as Harper cabinet mulls F-35 decision

OTTAWA - Companies vying to build the replacement for the air force's aging CF-18s have cranked up the hard sell as the Harper government weighs whether to hold a full competition — or to stick with the troubled F-35 program.

Representatives Dassault Aviation and Eurofighter talked up the merits of their individual jet fighters this week at a major Ottawa arms trade show.

Not to be outdone, the U.S. manufacturer of the F-35, Lockheed Martin, and rival Boeing, the maker of the Super Hornet, set up glitzy high-tech simulators hoping to give participants a taste of what it's like to fly their fast jets.

While all had praise for the nearly 18-month-long government review process, there was an underlying anxiety and hard-edge to each of the pitches.

Yves Robins, a senior vice president with Dassault, the French aircraft-maker, says the Conservative government's recent overhaul of the military procurement system means federal officials would be hard-pressed to explain a return to the F-35 sole-source plan.

Robins says if officials want to be consistent, there is a good chance they will consider what the other options might be.

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