OTTAWA: Canadian government is expected to announce this week that it will both purchase Australia's used F/A-18 Classic Hornets and unveil its plan to acquire a permanent fleet of fighter jets.
It is believed that the government will unveil a purchase plan in the coming days to replace the military's aging fleet of 77 CF-18 Hornets in early 2019.
Before then, the Canadian Armed Forces will receive an unknown number of Australian Hornets that are nearly as old as Canada's CF-18 Hornets, which were bought in 1980 from American manufacturer McDonnell Douglas that merged with aerospace giant Boeing Co. in 1997.
Canada was originally set to buy 18 Boeing Super Hornet jets at a cost of 5.2 billion U.S. dollars to replace the CF-18s. However, the deal became imperiled this year over a trade dispute between Boeing and its Canadian aerospace competitor, Bombardier Inc.
Last fall, the U.S. Commerce Department proposed an 80-percent anti-dumping duty and a 220-percent countervailing tariff against Bombardier's C Series 100-to-150-seat civilian aircraft following a complaint by Chicago-based Boeing that Montreal-headquartered Bombardier allegedly priced its aircraft below production cost and received unfair Canadian government subsidies.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would not "do business with a company" threatening Canada's aerospace industry, and the Trudeau government was reportedly in contact with its Australian counterpart for months regarding the purchase of Australia's surplus F-18s a day after Boeing filed its complaint with the Commerce Department against Bombardier in late April.
However, a military procurement specialist believed Canada should focus on the latter. "I would have skipped the interim step and put all hands on deck to buy new aircraft," said David Perry, a senior analyst and a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute in Ottawa.
Because of its age, the Australian fleet will require considerable maintenance, and Canada will likely have to order more than the 18 fighter jets it was set to buy from Boeing to ensure performance reliability for future Royal Canadian Air Force combat missions, said Perry, who specializes in defense budgeting and procurement.
He explained that in 2000, the CF-18s underwent a major upgrade at a cost of over 1 billion Canadian dollars (about 778 million U.S. dollars) to keep the fighter jets flying until 2020. The Australian aircraft will also need to be modified for compliance with Canadian military operational standards.
"I can't think of another NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ally buying used fighter aircraft," said Perry.
The United States and Britain are among the major members of NATO that have acquired new F-35 fighter jets from American aeronautics giant Lockheed Martin, which the previous Canadian government under Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper considered purchasing as well.