Canada Eyes Stopgap F/A-18 Purchase


The Canadian government may plug holes in its air defense capability with an interim purchase of 18 F/A-18 Super Hornets from Boeing. At a news conference on Tuesday, the country’s Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said the acquisition would keep its fighter capability at an acceptable level while Canada launches a full-scale open competition for replacement of the existing fleet of 77 tired first- and second-generation F-18 Hornets. Canada originally bought 138 of the fighters from McDonnell-Douglas in the early 1980s and they’ve been upgraded over that time, but are nearing the end of their operational lives. Canada routinely has trouble keeping enough Hornets airworthy to meet its own air defense needs and its commitment to the North American Air and Space Command (NORAD).

Replacing the well-worn fighters has been a major political issue in Canada for almost two decades and the recent election of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau punctuated that controversy with his 2015 campaign promise to end Canada’s participation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. Canada has covered its minimum commitments to remain a partner in the multinational JSF program but it has delayed pulling the trigger on its purchase of 65 of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft. Despite Trudeau’s campaign promise, the F-35 appears to be a contender in Canada’s new fighter replacement plan. “The government will launch, in its current mandate, a wide-open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fleet,” Sajjan told the news conference.