The report was removed from the website the day the Liberal government announced it was purchasing the F/A-18 Super Hornet as interim fighter
According to Ottawa Citizen a report from the Defence Research and Development Canada was made available on Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) website until the day the Liberal government announced it wanted to buy 18 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets as an interim solution.
The Liberal government decided to buy an interim fighter aircraft because Canada is facing a shortage of fighters that affects the country ability to fulfill military missions.
But according to the 2014 report which had been on the DND website “The costs involved with bridging options make them unsuitable for filling capability gaps in the short term. Any short term investment results in disproportionately high costs during the bridging period.”
The report, that was carefully reviewed for security issues before being put on the DND website, was removed from the website the day the Liberal government announced it was purchasing the Super Hornets.
At one point the DND was looking at putting the report back on its site, with certain revisions, but that won’t be done because as reported in a DND email to the Ottawa Citizen “given the current threat environment, the aggregate of the information contained in the report speaks to the capability of the Canadian Armed Forces and is sensitive in nature. For this reason, the report cannot be easily excised and will no longer be made available to the public.”
Even though the email didn’t explain the difference between 2014-2015 and 2016 “threat environments,” the analysis determined that whatever aircraft Canada selects in the future to replace its CF-18 fighters, it should go with a single fleet of the same type of aircraft. In fact according the email a mixed fleet of 38 higher capability aircraft, chosen for their ability to fulfill the most challenging of the NATO missions, and 34 lower capability aircraft, capable of fulfilling Canada’s NORAD obligations, could not provide the same capability as the single fleet of 65 higher capability aircraft.”
However the Liberal government, that has blamed the previous Conservative government for bungling the CF-18 replacement, has acknowledged the decision to buy the Super Hornets will cost more in the long run. Moreover Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan claims that Canada is facing a fighter capability gap when it comes to dealing with its NATO and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) commitments.
But according to Lt. Gen. Mike Hood Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Commander, the gap was created in 2016 when the Liberals changed defence policy, requiring the RCAF to meet both its NATO and North American air defence commitments at the same time. “That demands a certain number of aircraft that our present CF-18 fleet is unable to meet on its day-to-day serviceability rate,” he said “They’ve (the Liberals) changed the policy of the number of aircraft I have to have.”
Noteworthy Canada was involved in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program development since 1997 and on Jul. 16 2010, the Government of Canada under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced its intention to buy 65 F-35s to replace the Canadian Forces’ existing 80 CF-18 Hornets.
On Oct. 19, 2015 the Liberal Party of Canada under Justin Trudeau won the country federal election and in early Jun. 2016 decided to buy the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as more affordable alternative to the F-35.
However since the F/A-18 Super Hornet will be an interim-solution, Canada’s future fighter aircraft has not been selected yet: in fact an open competition (which possibly will include both F-35 and Super Hornet) will determine which aircraft is the best to meet RCAF requirement.
Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago / U.S. Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force, Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann / U.S. Air Force