A Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150T Polaris tanker refuels a Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornet above Kuwait on February 2 2015 during coalition anti-Islamic State operations. (Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND)
The Canadian Government has cited a looming capability gap behind its decision to “explore” the acquisition of 18 new Boeing Super Hornets for the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“Canada will immediately explore the acquisition of 18 new Super Hornet aircraft to supplement the CF-18s until the permanent replacement arrives,” a Canadian Government statement reads.
“Canada’s current fleet is now more than 30 years old and is down from 138 aircraft to 77. As a result, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) faces a capability gap.”
The Super Hornet acquisition will come ahead of a planned “wide open and transparent” competition to find a definitive replacement for the RCAF’s ‘classic’ CF-18 Hornets.
“We have a capability gap. We have selected the minimum number of aircraft to meet this capability gap here. At the same time, we are launching a full competition and making sure that we take the appropriate time, without cutting corners to get the right airplane,” Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said on Tuesday.
“The competition for a permanent fleet will be informed by the outcomes of the defence policy review next year,” Sajjan said.
The acquisition mirrors Australia’s own acquisition of 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets as a ‘Bridging Air Combat Capability’ to replace the RAAF’s ageing F-111s while awaiting its acquisition of F-35A Joint Strike Fighters.
The price of the 18 Super Hornets for Canada, their model type (single-seat F/A-18Es or dual-seat F/A-18Fs) and their delivery timetable has yet to be anounced.
Canada had planned to acquire 65 F-35As to replace its classic Hornets. In 2012 its then Conservative government deferred an F-35 acquisition, while the current Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned ahead of its 2015 election that it would not go ahead with the acquisition of the F-35.
With the acquisition of interim Super Hornets, the further deferment of a decision on a definitive replacement for the CF-18 means the new fighter fleet won’t “be fully operational in the late 2020s,” said Saijan.
Canada’s announcement that it would negotiate to acquire Super Hornets comes just days after the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced the US State Department had approved Kuwait’s acquisition of 40 Super Hornets (32 F/A-18Es and eight F/A-18Fs) under a US$10.1 billion Foreign Military Sales (FMS) deal.
The Kuwaiti and Canadian deals should extend Super Hornet production into the early 2020s. In further good news for Boeing’s fighter production lines, the US has also approved Qatar’s acquisition of 72 F-15QA Eagles under a US$21.1 billion FMS deal, which will keep the F-15 line open into the early 2020s as well.
Canada’s interest in an interim Super Hornet acquisition was first flagged in June.