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The F-35 Lightning II fighter jets set for purchase by the federal government are made by Lockheed Martin. Other aviation companies say the purchase should have been subjected to competitive bids. (Defence Department/Canadian Press) ((Defence Department/Canadian Press))

Two aviation companies have complained that the Canadian government never gave their planes a good look before selecting a competing jet — Lockheed Martin's F-35 — for a lucrative military contract.

Representatives of Boeing and French airplane maker Dassault appeared before a parliamentary committee on Thursday to say their planes were overlooked despite being capable of fulfilling the required capabilities of a new fighter for the Canadian military.

"To our knowledge, Canadian officials have not received the full complement of Super Hornet performance data from the U.S. navy, including those about the new Super Hornet's stealth characteristics," Boeing vice-president Kory Mathews told the committee. Boeing makes the Super Hornet.

Ottawa announced earlier this year it had awarded a multi-billion-dollar contract to Lockheed Martin for a new generation of fighter jets, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. At the time, it said no other plane met its high-level mandatory capabilities for new fighters.

Mathews, however, said that isn't true.

"I have every reason to believe the Super Hornet would be ideally suited to meet your defence needs," he said.

A similar story came from Yves Robin, an executive with French airplane manufacturer Dassault. Robin said no one from the Canadian air force asked to see any data about his company's plane, the Rafale.

"The last contact we had with the Canadian government and air force was on [Feb. 22, 2006] when we received a delegation of a couple of officers for a couple of hours." he said.

Robin said the aircraft his company makes also meets all of Ottawa's requirements.

The fighter contract represents one of the biggest military equipment purchases in Canadian history. It's worth $9 billion, but the full cost could rise to as much $18 billion once the government signs a maintenance contract.

With files from the CBC's James Cudmore