On Feb. 17, 2019, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) received the first two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18 interim fighter aircraft, an important milestone and investment in sustaining our current CF-18 Hornet fleet.
Through Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure Engaged, the Government of Canada is ensuring that RCAF has the mission ready aircraft it need to meet the country domestic and international obligations in advance of the arrival of jets to replace the entire CF-18 fleet.
“The interim fighter fleet is key to ensuring the Royal Canadian Air Force can continue to fulfill their missions and ensure the safety of Canadians and Canada,” said Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan. “We are familiar with these aircraft and are confident that they can provide the additional support our current fleet requires. They were flown in yesterday by the Royal Australian Air Force and I look forward to seeing them fly again soon in our Canadian colours.”
Canada is procuring 18 fighter aircraft and parts from the Government of Australia to rapidly increase availability of the CF-18 fleet in order to ensure the RCAF can meet all obligations simultaneously.
These aircraft are the same type as Canada’s current CF-18 fleet and can be integrated quickly into RCAF fleet. Modifications and technical work will begin immediately so they can be brought to a similar configuration to Canada’s CF-18 aircraft. The work will continue to be done by Canadian companies.
Deliveries will continue at regular intervals for the next three years, and aircraft will be integrated into the CF-18 fleet as modifications are completed. The final aircraft are expected to arrive by the end of 2021.
The first two aircraft are the F/A-18A model, which means they are single-seat aircraft. They were flown to Cold Lake, Alberta, from Nellis, Nevada, where they were participating in Exercise Red Flag, and will be employed at 3 Wing Bagotville and 4 Wing Cold Lake.
Modifications and maintenance of the current CF-18 fleet will continue to be required until the RCAF transitions to a future fighter. A review of combat capability improvements is currently underway.
Noteworthy Canada’s government cancelled a planned $2 billion purchase of 18 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters because of a decision by Boeing to launch a trade challenge against Canadian planemaker Bombardier, which the U.S. giant accuses of dumping airliners on the domestic American market.
Nevertheless Canada continues to make progress toward replacing its fighter fleet.
The formal request for proposals for the future fighter fleet is expected to be released in spring 2019, with a contract award in 2021-22 and deliveries to begin in 2025.
One potential contender is Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter, which Trudeau initially said he would not buy because it was too expensive. The government has since softened its line, saying the plane would be allowed to compete.
Photo credit: Able Seaman Callum Rutherford / Royal Canadian Air Force
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