Canada intends to buy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jets as an interim measure for replacement of their CF-18s before making a decision on F-35 fighters.
Rather than a full replacement of the air force’s aging CF-18 fighter fleet, it’s believed the purchase will be labelled an interim measure to fill what Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is a pending “gap” in Canada’s military capabilities, National Post reported Sunday.
There is precedent for purchasing Super Hornets on an interim basis; Australia bought 24 of the aircraft about five years ago for $2.5 billion, to replace that country’s antiquated F-111 jets until newer F-35s were ready.
Sajjan, who recently visited Australia, warned last month that Canada’s CF-18s need to be replaced now. And the fact they have not been replaced means we are facing a capability gap in the years ahead.” He indicated the government planned to move quickly.
An official in Sajjan’s office reiterated that sense of urgency on Saturday, saying the Royal Canadian Air Force has been “risk-managing” its fighter jet fleet.
“The government is working very hard on this file as it must because today the Canadian Armed Forces are risk-managing a gap between our NATO and NORAD obligations, and the number of planes we can put in the air on any given day,” the official said.
“That capability gap is expected to grow in the years ahead, and that’s an unacceptable situation.” The official added that the issue is a “very high priority for the government to chart a way forward in the very near future.”
Liberal suggestions that Canada’s CF-18s are on their last legs appear to have come out of nowhere, after the previous Conservative government announced in 2014 that it was upgrading the CF-18s so they could continue to operate through 2025. That $400-million initiative was intended to buy the government time to make the right decision on a replacement.