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The Italian-built Spartan C27J is being considered to replace Buffalo and Hercules planes in rescue missions in Canada, a report says. ((Courtesy Finmeccanica))

Canada's Department ofNational Defence ispoised to buy new search and rescue aircraft, but will look at only one bid for a $3-billion contract because of the military's strict requirements, says a newspaper report.

The Canadian Forces is considering the Italian-built Spartan C27J as the only "viable bidder" when it moves to replace Buffalo and Hercules planes currently deployed in rescue missions in Canada, according to a DND document obtained by the Globe and Mail.

The contract includes aircraft maintenance for 20 years.

Lobbying, however, is underway by the makers of a competing aircraft, the Spanish C295, as company officials attempt to persuade DND officials to alter requirements to allow them to take part in the bid.

Martin Sefzig, spokesperson for EADS-CASA, which makes the C295, told the newspaper that the plane is used in eight countries, while the Italian-built plane has not proven itself a search-and-rescue aircraft.

He said the company has not been allowed to show the Spanish plane to DND officials. Both planes, the Italian-built and the Spanish, cost about $30 million to $40 million each, the report says.

Retired Lt.-Gen. George Macdonald, who prefers the Spartan, told the Globe and Mail that it is the only plane that meets DND requirements, and is the largest and fastest of its kind.

"To compromise on the requirements in any way would be a difficult thing to address," Macdonald is quoted as saying."If you get something that ultimately cannot perform the job as identified by the Canadian Forces, who have the best experience in doing this, (it) would be a fundamental error in the process."

Opposition parties have criticized Ottawa for awarding defence contracts without considering other bids.

Liberal MP and defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh told thenewspaper that the procurement process lacks "civilian oversight" because purchases are driven mostly by military requirements, and the Harper government may not be getting the best value for its money without considering other bids.

With files from the Canadian Press