Canada could acquire used Boeing F/A-18A/B Hornets from Australia to replace a fleet of aging CF-18s, a move that would both satisfy its interim fleet needs and dodge a need to acquire new aircraft on a temporary basis.
Canada is exploring several options to supplement its CF-18 fleet until it finds a permanent fighter replacement, Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan’s office says in a statement this week.
“This option requires discussions with other F-18 users,” Sajjan says. “In light of Australia recently notifying all allies about their intent to dispose of their F-18 fleet, Canada visited them to inquire about the state of their equipment and spare parts.”
The CF-18 fighter jet recapitalisation became a political lightning rod during Canada’s federal 2015 election, when then Liberal candidate Justin Trudeau criticised the Harper government for allegedly buying the Lockheed Martin F-35 without a competition.
Last November, the Canadian government announced its intent to launch an open competition to replace the CF-18s and its plan to purchase 18 new Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets as an interim fix for its current capability gap.
But those plans imploded after Boeing’s commercial arm accused Canadian company Bombardier of dumping its CSeries jet onto the US market, prompting a US Department of Commerce investigation to determine if the company received unfair subsidies from the Canadian government.
A potential used aircraft acquisition could sidestep a direct quarrel with Boeing, while also leveraging the Australian Hornet’s commonality with the CF-18s. Australia began operating its Hornet fleet in the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, just a few years after Canada received its CF-18s. The Royal Australian Air Force plans on replacing its 71 F/A-18A/B Hornets with 72 Lockheed F-35As beginning in 2018.