Canada government has started to negotiate with USA about sole-source purchase of up to 18 F/AQ-18 Super Hornet jet fighters from the US.
The move, intended as a stopgap solution to ease pressure on the air force's aging fleet of CF-18s, could cost taxpayers between $5 billion and $7 billion over the lifetime of the aircraft, according to data circulating within the Department of National Defence, CBC news reported today.
But these preliminary figures are supported by US congressional budget information.
The decision to buy 18 warplanes in a sole-source deal, originally announced last fall, is meant to address what the Liberal government calls as an urgent "capability gap."
But it also lands Canada squarely in the middle of the Trump administration's showdown over the future of the Super Hornet's rival, the oft-maligned F-35.
A final agreement, which requires congressional approval, will take about a year to negotiate; however, Liberal government has already signaled it would like to see the first aircraft arrive in 2019.
The company is currently waiting for formal, written notice (a letter of request) from the Canadian government, which will be submitted to the U.S Pentagon within the next few weeks, a Boeing official said.
“The company is looking at how production of Canadian jets can be slotted alongside existing orders from the U.S. navy and Kuwait. Boeing currently produces two Super Hornets a month.” Dan Gillian, Boeing's vice-president of the F-18 programs, said.
"We think we can build all of those airplanes in time to meet the customer demands," Gillan added. "We may have to increase production rate, but that is very doable," he said.