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Canada to buy 25 RAAF classic Hornets – report

Two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornet fighters from 433 Tactical Fighter Squadron fly over Iceland on May 31, 2017 during an Operation REASSURANCE surveillance mission. Photo: Corporal Gary Calvé. Imagery Technician ATF-ICELAND RP09-2017-0025-005 ~ Deux chasseurs CF-188 Hornet du 433e Escadron d’appui tactique de l’Aviation royale canadienne survolent l’Islande, le 31 mai 2017, lors d’une mission de surveillance au cours de l’opération REASSURANCE. Photo : Caporal Gary Calvé. Technicien en imagerie, FOA-ISLANDE RP09-2017-0025-005

The Royal Canadian Air Force received 138 McDonnell Douglas CF-18A/B Hornets between 1982 and 1989, and about 80 remain in service. (RCAF)

Canadian media has reported that Canada has requested the sale of 25 F/A-18A/B classic Hornets from Australia from 2019 to complement its own force of similar CF-18A/B Hornets.

The Ottawa Citizen said on June 15 that the number of jets to be acquired by Canada’s Department of National Defence has risen from 18 as reported in late 2017, and that the additional seven aircraft would be broken down for spare parts.

The report correlates with recent testimony provided to the Australian Parliament’s Senate Estimates by the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group’s (CASG) Head Aerospace Systems Division, AVM Cath Roberts. “They accepted our offer in December, but they have also put in a further request for some seven aircraft for system testing, training and spares,” she told the committee in late May.

US State Department approval for Canada to acquire the ex-RAAF Hornets is still required before the sale can go ahead, despite Canada operating virtually identical aircraft.

The Hornets would allow Canada to extend its own fleet of about 80 CF-18A/Bs – most of which are older than Australia’s own F/A-18A/Bs which were built between 1984 and 1990 – until it can decide upon a replacement capability. 85 of Canada’s CF-18s received a partial-fleet fatigue life and capability upgrade in the late 1990s and 2000s similar to that of the RAAF’s multi-phased AIR 5376 Hornet Upgrade Program, while the balance of the remaining fleet was retired

While Canada remains a partner in the international Joint Strike Fighter program, the then new Trudeau Liberal government suspended its plan to buy 65 F-35s in 2015 pending the results of a new study.

In the interim Canada had planned to buy 18 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as an interim capability, but this was cancelled in 2017 following the imposition of additional trade tariffs on the sale of Bombardier C-Series regional airliners to Delta Air Lines by the US Commerce Department. The results of a permanent replacement study are expected in 2019/20, with the new aircraft entering service in the late 2020s.