Military Aviation

The F/A-18 Super Hornet is out of Canada competition to replace Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 Hornet fleet

F/A-18 Super Hornet out of Canada competition to replace RCAF CF-18s

The Canadian government has told to Boeing that its bid to replace Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) aging CF-18 Hornets with a new fleet of the company’s F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets did not meet the federal government’s requirements.

According to Toronto Star, three sources from industry and government say the message was delivered on Nov. 24, 2021 as the other two companies competing for the $19-billion contract — US defence giant Lockheed Martin and Swedish firm Saab — were told they met the government’s requirements.

Since they were not authorized to discuss these matters publicly the three sources were all granted anonymity.

The Department of National Defence and Public Services and Procurement Canada, which is managing the competition on behalf of the federal government, did not respond to requests for comment on Nov. 25.

Companies not only had been ordered to show that their contract would result in substantial economic benefits to Canada but also to show their fighter jet was able to meet the military’s requirements for missions at home and abroad.

Boeing’s failure

While Boeing’s failure to meet the requirements would appear to disqualify the F/A-18 Super Hornet from the competition, leaving only Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen fighter jet in the running, none of the companies have been told whether they are still in or out.

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According to a Boeing spokesperson the company would reserve comment pending official notification from the government.

News that one of the two U.S. companies competing for the contract failed to meet one or more of the requirements is the latest twist in what has already been a long and often unpredictable road toward replacing Canada’s CF-18s.

Replacement of Canada’s CF-18s

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.

Then, 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.

But 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 US giant accuses of dumping airliners on the domestic American market.

In May 2019 the Canadian government launched a new fighter competition to replace RCAF’s CF-18 Hornets.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

View Comments

  • Thank goodness for this because neither of the US offerings are suitable for the RCAF. The F-35 is a monetary rabbit hole that is slow, short-legged, incompatible with existing infrastructure, still can't shoot straight and has already crashed twice.

    The F/A-18E has become overly-specialised as an anti-ship and coastal assault platform. This is by design and a smart move by the USN because that's exactly what they need in a carrier-based fighter.

    However, the JAS-39E is a high-tech, low-cost fighter that was designed first and foremost to be an aerospace defence fighter that specialises in air-to-air combat. It will be made in Canada with full tech transfer and it can use the greatest A2A missiles in the world (Meteor and IRIS-T) along with all weapons that we already have. No changes to infrastructure are needed and it is the safest fighter jet in history, having never suffered an engine failure in its 25+ year history. I considered the Hornet to be the Gripen's only real competition because I don't believe that we're insane enough to select the gong-show known as the F-35. I feel very safe in predicting that the RCAF will be flying Gripens and I'm thrilled to death about that. :)

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