Canada to buy Australian Hornets, scrap Super Hornet deal – report

Two Canadian CF-18s over Iceland in early 2017. (RCAF)

A December 6 report by Reuters says Canada will soon announce it will scrap the planned acquisition of 18 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, and instead buy an unspecified number of retired Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A/B ‘classic’ Hornets to supplement its own CF-18 fleet.

The report, which quotes three unnamed sources who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation, says the Super Hornet deal would be abandoned due to the ongoing trade dispute with Boeing and the US government over subsidies by the Canadian federal and Quebec provincial governments to Bombardier for its CSeries narrowbody airliner.

Boeing launched a trade challenge against Bombardier, claiming it had ‘dumped’ onto the US domestic market 75 CSeries ordered by US airline Delta Air Lines, despite Boeing not having offered an alternative of its own for Delta’s requirement. Boeing’s claim was upheld by the US Department of Commerce which subsequently imposed a nearly 300 per cent tariff on the per unit sale price of the Delta order.

An official request by Canada for 18 Super Hornets was made in 2016 to fulfil an interim requirement pending a decision on the ultimate CF-18 replacement being made. Canada was an early Joint Strike Fighter program partner nation and remains so today, but the Trudeau Liberal government was swept to power in late 2014 promising to review the previous conservative party’s decision to acquire 65 F-35As, and has now undertaken to conduct a competitive evaluation of the market next year and make a decision sometime in 2019. This suggests it would be unlikely any long-term CF-18 replacement could enter service before 2025, meaning the oldest Canadian CF-18s will be approaching 40 years old.

The Australian angle continues to gain momentum, with Canadian officials reportedly visiting RAAF Williamtown in August to inspect the RAAF aircraft, and Australian officials visiting Ottawa in November for further discussions. But with the RAAF’s first F-35 squadron unlikely to achieve initial operational capability at Williamtown before 2020 and subsequent squadrons at one-year intervals through to 2023, the availability of RAAF classic Hornets in significant numbers before 2021 is uncertain.

If bought by Canada, the former RAAF aircraft would be absorbed into the Canadian fleet quite easily – either as a source of spares or to spread the budgeted flying hours over a larger fleet – as both fleets completed similar upgrade programs in the past decade resulting in common sensor and avionics capabilities which are still operationally relevant. But with both countries’ Hornet airframes built in the 1980s, the youngest airframe available will be nearly 35 years old by the time any transfer of RAAF Hornets to Canada could occur. Canada once operated a fleet of 138 CF-18s, but through attrition and force downsizing, now operates fewer than 80 aircraft.

The Reuters report claims that by buying ex-RAAF Hornets, Canada would save money by avoiding the need to absorb a new training and sustainment system. But any savings will likely be offset to a large degree by the maintenance burden of operating 30+ year old airframes. Further, while the RAAF jets may extend the operational life of the Canadian fleet, the need to replace these aircraft within a decade still remains.

Official comment has been sought from the Australian Department of Defence.


  1. Philip says

    I wonder if Australia will assist its Commonwealth cousin by offering some of its newer frames first and reshuffling the squadrons accordingly?

    This puts secondary pressure on Lockheed Martin for prompt delivery of Lightning II’s to Australia to ensure the Canadian F-18 transfer happens. Could be in their best interest to do so if Canada also announces a revamped Next Fighter competition which should include the Lightning II despite the Trudeau’s Government insistence that they wont buy it when they took Government.

    A small win for the Australian tax payer ahead then – although I’m sure the F-18s selected will be sold at ‘mate’s rates’.

  2. Dave N says

    If Canada once operated a fleet of 138 f18’s and now operates less than 80 where are 58 odd frames surly they couldn’t of lost that many,anyway this could be a great deal for us with some extra dollars in our budget we could boost the best small Air Force in the world even more.

  3. John N says

    And the saga continues, on and on and on and……..

    Canada procured its Classic Hornets a few years before Australia, Canada joined the JFS program around the same time as Australia in the early 2000’s, in fact from memory, Canada signed up just prior to us.

    The big difference between Australia and Canada when it has come to the F-35A, and defence procurement in general, is that there is no political bipartisan approach to defence in Canada.

    As opposed to here in Australia, defence is often used as a political tool against the other side, by both the Left and Right side of politics in Canada, no wonder they can’t make a decision!!!!

    No one side of Canadian politics will stick its head out and make a commitment, hence why they are in situation they are today, the current Canadian PM said, before he was elected, that it was a NO to the F-35, then he said he would procure an ‘interim’ fleet of 18 Super Hornets, now that has all turned sour due to the well known issues due to subsidies to the Canadian aerospace industry.

    So their next alternative (again without making a final decision on what will actually replace their Classic Hornets), is to do a different ‘interim’ purchase, eg, chase after our retiring Classic Hornets.

    But as Andrew McL points out in this article (and I’ve said it before too), there are unlikely to be significant numbers of RAAF Classic Hornets available before 2021.

    Canada is supposed to be ‘relaunching’ their competition for the ‘real and final’ replacement of their Classic fleet in 2019, so why even bother procuring our ‘used’ Classic airframes if our used airframes are probably not available until after they make a final decision? The mind boggles!!!!

    The saga is not over yet, I’m certainly not holding my breath as to a final outcome, that’s for sure!!!


    John N

  4. Brendon says


    At least twenty CF-18s in accidents, incurring at least eleven pilot deaths, as of November 28, 2016. Their operational use has been huge,, from their NATO commitments to the defence of the US.

    I would suspect that the others have had major corrosion issues that have warranted them to be withdrawn from service due to operating in the harsh Canadian environment.

  5. John N says

    Dave N,

    Yes Canada did procure 138 Classic Hornets, but they only upgraded (from memory) 80 airframes, similar upgrade path to the RAAF’s Classic fleet, they have lost 20 airframes to attrition, the remaining 40ish airframes were never upgraded, they were parked and mostly stripped too.

    It is way way too late for Canada to look at upgrading those very long ‘parked’ airframes, hence why the very ‘similarly’ upgraded RAAF Classic Hornets are attractive.

    And if we do ‘do a deal’, I wouldn’t be hold my breath as to the dollars they are likely to pay, probably only enough to pay for one or two ‘new’ F-35A at the most.

    Hi Philip,

    As much as I like our Canadian cousins, why would we bend over backwards and give them the ‘best of the best’ Classic Hornet airframes until we are completely finished with them? Why?

    Sorry, happy to help them out with our ‘hand me downs’, but not until we have reached a point where there are enough operational F-35A’s in RAAF service, and that’s not likely to happen until 2021-22 at the earliest. Why put ourselves out if they can’t get their act together? Why?

    And what pressure is there on LM for ‘prompt’ delivery? Sorry I don’t get that?

    We’ve just had the first of the next batch of eight airframes delivered a ‘little’ early, and there is a clear path to the delivery of the remaining airframes between now and end of 2023 (this has been long established for many years).

    Again, why should we bend over backwards to change our procurement process just to please the Canadians who can’t get their act together? Sorry, but that doesn’t make sense, it’s not our problem.

    We all love our ‘family members’ but lets not forget that there is always one of them that makes a fool of themselves at the family Christmas party, when it comes to defence procurement, Canada is certainly that certain family member that makes a fool of themselves!!


    John N

  6. says

    Canada has put themselves into a very tight corner. I can’t believe all this shuffling around for a few classics. Canada should of been in the process of introducing their new fighter what ever they chose.Their only real choice is totally replace all their classics with supers, or F-35s. Get your act together!!!

  7. Raymond says

    So this debacle has seen the RCAFs fighter acquisition program downgrade from F-35As to F/A-18E/Fs, then from F/A-18E/Fs to F/A-18A/Bs… wonder whether there are any Mirage IIIs parked somewhere in case Plan C is unsuccessful?!

    The RAAF has (or had at least until recently before beginning the classic Hornet withdrawal process) 71 out of an original 75 airframes. The RCAF only has around 77 operational aircraft remaining out of an original 138 – and now needs second-hand ex-RAAF examples to see it through… unbelievable really!

  8. Red Barron says

    Does/Could the US Gov put a ban on this FMS sale and kill the idea. Similar to the F1111’s that had to be scrapped and not resold ?

  9. B. Harrison says

    Canada’s defence and the people who determine it are a disgrace. Unlike Australia where (at least) defence is usually bi-partisan, defence is used as a political football in Canadian politics. I am of the understanding that the Canadians are looking at purchasing 30-40 F-18 A and B’s from the RAAF including spares. This may prolong what was a good 3rd generation fighter a little longer, it does nothing for the future of Canadian defence other than kicking the can a little further down the street. While it can afford to be cheap due simply to it’s geographical proximity to the U.S, from a moral perspective, particularly for the men and women of the Canadian Defence Force, it is morally bankrupt to allow it’s people second hand and in many instances inferior equipment. If you think that sounds a little harsh, ask the Canadian Navy about the pieces of junk they call submarines (ex-British Victoria Class diesel electric submarines) that they have to operate.

  10. Philip says

    Hi John N
    Here’s why I think Australia will help out if they ask:

    – Canada has been reported to only be in the market for approx 30 frames – maximum
    – Its a select buyer’s market – not many other suitable purchasers out there
    – Australia would have shared the frame history of all F/A-18s, and Canada would have most likely selected the youngest suitable frames or possibly no deal (that is a logical negotiating assessment based on the above)
    – In the interim, Australia is more likely put F/A-18Fs into harms way first as they are Gen 4.3+ (e.g. Syria)
    – Canada is part of the 5-eyes powers, and it is in Australia’s interest that Canada remains a capable military force
    – It give Australia possible bargaining power with the Canadians for the future – whatever shape that takes.

    Importantly, I don’t buy into your idea that Australia is so insular that it can’t afford or should be unwilling to assist. That’s what Allies do.

    As for the Lockheed comment – under the scenario of Australia assisting Canada with some F/A18s early on, by ensuring any ‘perceived capability gap’ for Australia is covered by the accurate delivery of F-35A to Australia as now scheduled, can only assist the Canadian perception of Lockheed, IMO, in their ongoing consideration for the future Canadian Fighter competition in 2019. i.e. a reliable partner (as they may need a few wins in that regard).

    Hey – Its just my opinion.

  11. Steve says

    The end game here is to stretch the procurement into the early 2020s, so Canada can benefit from lessons learned by other F35A users (yes, the F35A is what Canada ultimately wants, despite what Pierre Trudeau stated), as well as further development on the airframe and systems. Canada was an early adopter for the F18, and it took many years to iron out the bugs in that platform. There is no real desire to do this again. What the Air Force wants is Block 6 (engine upgrade), Block 4B software, and a glitch free ALIS. However, this means taking delivery of new air frames in and around 2023, which is why the sudden interest in extending the life of the current fleet. The added benefit of a later delivery is the price should be in the $80Mil range by then. The DND is NOT staffed by idiots, and there is method to the apparent madness. Canada has extensive experience with airframe life extension on the legacy Hornet, and the cost for each air frame to add an extra 2-3000 hrs is about $5-10Mil. We are only looking for 18 flight-capable airframes from Australia (and a few more for spares), to fly for 5-8 years, so for about $90-180Mil we can achieve a good interim solution to bridge the gap until 2013. Let’s not forget that Boeing wanted almost $6Billion for 18 SHs. This is by far the best outcome for the air force,

    For John N, I would like to remind you that your own F35A procurement has been highly political, as is the sub program. I’m not sure I agree Australian politics is especially bi-partisan with regards to defence procurements.

  12. Dave B. says

    G Day Folks . A little background on the reduced Canadian fleet if I may. A former Liberal government back in the nineties was determined to contribute the very bare minimum to collective Defence after Canadian Forces left our German bases. Canada had approximately 115 Active CF-18A/B’s when the decision to upgrade our fleet went to the Canadian Treasury board (Chaired by Canadian P.M. Jean Chretien). Those meetings reduced our Fleet to 80 Upgraded Aircraft but after center barrel inspections the R.C.A.F. upgraded only 79 Aircraft. Our Fleet was flown very hard especially in Germany but have been somewhat sheltered since.

    Canadians have a knack for extending the lives of Military aircraft . I live near Shearwater Nova Scotia and our 50+ year old Seakings were flying all afternoon.

  13. Mick C says

    How has either the F-35 or the Subs been highly political, every Leader of both major parties over the last decade have been for the F-35 purchase and the 12 Subs. Opposition to the F-35s has come mainly from groups with invested interests elsewhere who have spread malicious incorrect facts about the F-35.
    There have been 3 DWPs in that time, 2 by Labour 1 by the Coalition all have backed the F-35 and called for 12 Subs.
    There is good Bipartisanship in Australia about what we need and should get, the problem is one side tends to provide more money for Defence then the other

  14. says

    Another problem, if the JSF is delayed and we have sold our 18-20 classics to them, doesn’t this give us a capability Gap? Like I said, Canada should have been preparing for their new fighter now.Philip, we should not have to come to Canada’s aid because none of those idiots in government can make a decision. It’s not hard to know you can’t have 35-40 year old airframes as your frontline assets!!

  15. Craigy says

    @ Steve Pierre Trudeu stated? How did he do that?

    The position the current liberal government in Canada finds itself in is a simple case of saying what you want in opposition and finding things are not all that straight forward when you win office and have to consider all the strategic etc implications. Prior to the 2007 election, the Labor party in Australia campaigned against the purchase of the Super Hornets ordered by the Howard Government stating that if they won office, this purchase would be reviewed and was likely to be cancelled. On winning office and after a supposed ‘review’ decided to stick with the purchase. The only addition was the purchase of an additional 12 Hornets in the Growler configuration. Australia’s defence comes first and the retirement of the classics should ensure that the best airframes stay in operational use in Australia. The others can be sold to Canada. As for sending the Super Hornets to war first, lets not forget that the classics have been deployed to the Middle East against IS etc and have performed superbly.

  16. Jarrad says

    People – this is just as much about Canada saying to the US, you’re behaving like a jerk. We sell our planes into your market and you whack a 300% Tarif on them yet you want us to buy your Brand new Super Hornets?

    Trump wants countries to “pay their own way” yet doesn’t allow them to conduct their trade freely. It’s all in America’s favour.

  17. Alpha141 says

    I think it is a brave smart move by Canada. Lateral thinking. The Canadian people would be very supportive of not paying out large purchased for new interm jets and infrastructure associated to a corporation attempting to undermine an aspect of their country’s sovereignty. If you know many…i am sure there are the issues you suggest but overall would be glad their government is standing up for their business / people / jobs etc. That is an element those choose to get into Defense for.

    The RAAF jets would be in outstanding shape despite the age etc. Some risks would be higher of course but you guys know there is always high procurement costs associated with ADF purchases because the sustainment aspect is always make our purchase seem very high. The high certainty of this move going ahead only confirms that to me. As, based on the loss of hardware Canada have experienced they would be even more cautious you would feel. Not less vs us.

    Canada financially is in a real bad place. A bit of digging isn’t too hard to do and would be a worthy exercise for many right now imho. The timeline related to all these various stages has been undermined by a significant drop in oil prices. Other minerals also which have recovered a bit but not to the levels when many of the decisions related to these were made. Canada has a big Navy issue also and with the 2nd largest landmass and coast to manage over vast sparse area….tough to always manage resources of this nature.

    One big natural resource of theirs is the Tar Sands which have a high extract price which wasn’t very profitable upon the drop. Their is a canary in the coal mine related to the next wave of the 2008 financial issues that was only avoided by most nations getting into unsustainable debt…hence a world wide escalation in military tech build up. Perhaps a threat identified in future instability the defense forces are all aware of. Their housing industry from the banking side of things is very interesting to explore. So, just putting this out there because the ratings agencies would be monitoring closely related to a possible downgrade meaning debt funding would be much higher. let alone the cost of bailing their banks out on top.

    So…perhaps see this action of theirs an attempt to do the best with not much. And, also a bit of a confirmation for some of the variables offered here that justify their seemingly indecision going on. I put a few things out there to consider about Australia also as Canada in many ways a similar situation to ours also. Enjoy alot of your perspectives guys this year from the sidelines a bit. Keep up the good work all and AA.

  18. John N says


    Mate, I respect your opinion, of course I do, it’s just that I disagree completely (no offence ok?) completely happy for you to disagree with me (I’m sure we will agree to disagree!).

    I’m more than happy to see Canada procure some of our Classic Hornet fleet, but NOT until we are completely ready to dispose of them, and certainly not if it costs us, Canada is not a third world country, they are a wealthy first world country (they just happen to have third world defence procurement practices), not our fault, not our problem.

    I’ve read all you points, sorry, but you sound like an apologist for their inefficient defence procurement practises, again, not our problem, they are a big grown up nation, it’s their problem, happy to sell them our used Classic Hornets, but again, not until we have finished with them.

    The Government, RAAF and all of the other partner nations in the F-35 program, will have put many years of work into developing a smooth transition from our respective legacy fleets to our new F-35 fleets.

    Why should we change years of planning, progressive budget outlays, etc, etc, to suddenly change it and give Canada all of the best airframes early and put pressure on LM? Why? Just because Canadian politicians have been at each others throats for many years regarding making timely defence procurement decisions, and can’t get their act together, again, how is that our problem?

    One last point on the LM delivery process, Australia and all of the other partner nations have worked for many years, planning the many years ahead, when it comes to delivery of airframes, production ‘slots’ are worked out many years ahead, it takes many years of planning for all of the suppliers to start with producing the very first ‘part’ before the complete airframe rolls off the production line, again, many years later.

    Our deliver and production slots between now and 2023 have been locked in, they were locked in many years ago, and that isn’t going to change.


    John N

  19. John N says

    Hi Steve,

    Mate, sorry, but you completely wrong about the ‘lack of’ bipartisan approach to defence these days here in Australia.

    As Mick C pointed out above, both of the major political parties here in Australia are on the same page, and have been so for more than a decade, both support the F35 procurement, yes of course there are those on the ‘fringe’ who disagree, but they are not the decision makers, not one bit.

    Can you say the same about the two mainstream Canadian political parties? I don’t think so.

    As Mick C also said we have had three Defence White Papers (DWP) produced since 2009, the main thrust of major procurement programmes has basically been unchanged over that period of time, not one political party has ‘threatened’ to cancel a potential major decision of the other party, they have consistently backed all of the major Defence procurement programs.

    As for the very long running saga in Canada regarding replacing their aging Classic Hornet fleet, well, what can I say.

    You might suggest that Canada is being smart and waiting until the so called bugs are ironed out, but the truth is more that the major political parties just won’t commit and make a decision, especially when the other side won’t support that decision.

    At the end of the day, happy for Canada to procure some of our pre loved Classic Hornets, not a problem, but again, not until we are finished with them of course too.


    John N

  20. says

    Alpha141, the defence of your country is a duty and necessity of the government. It is imperative that enough money is always put aside or available at ALL times. I see what you are saying but most countries spend 1.8-2% of the GDP on defence. This is not much and in saying this, this money should cover ( and of course putting aside a little every year) for purchases. Have a look how much America is in debt but still increase defence spending. So what I am saying is , they have let down their country and citizens all because they didn’t think ahead. I wouldn’t even let the Canadian government to do my household budget.

  21. ngatimozart says

    @ Steven,

    Canadian defence procurement is about as bad as Indian defence procurement and the Indians take some beating. It’s not just the CF-18 replacement, but overall defence procurement. From the outside it appears to be very bureaucratic heavy with two govt depts involved, even before any procurement gets to Cabinet level. Why can’t the DND do it’s own business cases and submit them to Cabinet for approval at various gateways. Secondly Canadian defence procurement is extremely pricey. The RNZN are building a 23,000 tonne AOR for CAN$432 million. This is a brand new ship that is ice strengthened so that it can operate in the Antarctic. Thats just under CAN$300 million for a ship with arguably greater capability. That’s not just this capability procurement. I’ve looked at other Canadian defence procurements and I’ve wondered if they have heads made of gold. For what you have paid for an interim capability the RAN are acquiring two Cantabria class AORs being built in Spain by Navantia and have about CAN$ 50 million in change.

  22. Alpha141 says

    @ Paul…totally agree mate. I was more just offering some perspectives i see that warrant some consideration. Or not.

    Tough to manage all going and be responsible for it. Very easy offering opinions from here that is for sure. Canadians are wonderful people in my experience and it is nice to see some boots form the ground contributing earlier. I really wish them / you well. And, hope to return up there again soon on a 787 again.but avoid US customs.

    I think this is really good for them. Super Hornets perhaps wired for Growlers might be an ideal nice to have matching us here. It isn’t their fault the program is way over cost and years and years over also. That should be a consideration here more that a issue with their multiple governments seemingly indecisiveness to commit spending. The ground wasn’t firm to commit. Most Defense focus measure 25-50 plans. The plans years and years ago were build on the F-35 dates that didn’t eventuate. Even those size slippages would be impacting these larger time frames. Their metrics and equipment aren’t exact to us on that thus this situation. Our Government had to do what it did roughly when it did. Canada didn’t but now it has to. Canada ideally could have done with more C-17s than the 5 they have being another sign of managing limited resources. They would also likely need some good aerial refueling also due to size of country. So…something else also. Though, i am not across their situation re this.

    I certainly don’t support structures within governments that receive no public input…there is a need for balance also. As too much – offed here re changes of governments by others has been shared well. Can you imagine the US uproar if someone else did this to them relative to the tariff? It is really lucky the TPP didn’t get implemented (yet anyway…) as if it had been…Boeing could have sued Canada and Canada would have probably had to pay them also!

  23. Scott Strachan says

    Cant see the US DOD allowing the sale of our hornets to canada as the sale would have to be allowed by the US DOD due to the FMS agreement.

  24. Mick C says

    Why wouldn’t the US allow a sale of FMS equipment between 2 of their 5 eyes Partners? especially where that equipment is actually aiding in the Air Defence of the US through NORAD. All FMS means is the US has control over further disposal of used equipment it does not preclude the on sale of that equipment to an approved customer, it just has to be approved.
    Also this is not the only possible on sale of US made Military eqpt that is on the books, the last 2 FFGs may be sold to Poland and will also need US approval, seeing that the US themselves sold 2 Sister Ships of the FFGs to Poland that shouldn’t be an issue.
    I cant see any problem with either sale being approved, both are in US interests

  25. Jasonp says

    Scott, ofcourse they’ll allow it. Do you really think they’d block the sale due to a petty trade dispute? They had already approved the Super Hornet sale, so they have no grounds to block the sale of a handful of 30 year old classics.

  26. Harry says

    Love a good saga: whether it’s Canada’s procurement program; or the back and forth comments about its procurement program:)

  27. says

    Alpha141, I have no idea on what you wrote on your last post. Yes I’m sure the Canadians are wonderful people, so I don’t see how wonderful lovely Canadian citizens have anything to do with a defence procurement? As John N has put it, the Canadians had every opportunity to go down the same path with the F-35 as us. Yes it has run late and over budget but it will be the only fighter that can meet the needs for now and into the future. Wishing them and me well? Who said it was Canada’s fault? I’m just not understanding the context of your post.

  28. Samual says

    If they have a shovel they might be able to get their hands on a few of Australia’s old F-111s. Failing that I am sure there still might be some old Skyhawks sitting around somewhere.

    Seriously though … Either the F-35 or Superhornet. Just toss a coin and buy one of them.

  29. Richard James says

    So if it is good enough for a 158 Canadians to give up their life’s, in Americans war on alleged Terror in Afghanistan, then America should respect it Northern Neighbour, and ally, rather than acting like a spoil child.

    No wonder things are a mess in the White House ?

    Therefore, Next America demands Canadian support in their next Bankers Wars, Canada ought to say “NO”

    Canada is protecting America’s Northern Defence; so I do not know what they are thinking in Washington ?
    Are they thinking ? clearly not

    “Look after your Friends, and your Friends will look after you”

    Having served in the Canadian Military, I am aware of the Banter that goes on, the same with the ANZAC Sprit
    Come on America; Time to grow up and act like a Big Boy, Not a spoil Child

  30. Dan says

    I still say Canada should’ve bitten the bullet and gone with the Supers.

    In RAAF service, despite a LOT of initial skepticism (and I am man enough to admit, I thought it was a daft idea at first), the Super has been very good (could use more range of course…. CFT’s?!?!?) both as a platform in it’s own right, and a lead in to 4.5-5 Gen Network Centric Warfare. PLUS it gave us a great footing to move to Growler and a head-start on 5th Gen tactics – pretty much every major 5th Gen player is looking at mixed fleets of 4.5 Gen and 5 Gen aircraft, with complimentary roles, because despite flying more than one airframe, it seems to be working out cheaper.

    And not wanting to get too far off course here, but I can easily see how effective (cost and capability) an extra 18 Supers and Growlers would be to Australia (say 6 more Growlers, to create 2x 9 jet SQN’s and 12 more Supers to create 2x 17 jet SQN’s, and a dedicated 2 jet Development Unit/Attrition pool). Add 72 F-35’s into the mix (across 3x 17 jet SQN’s, a 17 jet OCU, and 4 jet Development Unit/Attrition pool) and you have a fast-jet air force that has serious capability.

    Canada should have leveraged the RAAF Classic/Super –> Super/F-35A experience, and come up with a similar force mix…

    Instead, I am not really really sure how I see this playing out – Obviously RCAF wants the best RAAF Classics, but they’re they jets that we’ll be using until the final F-35 SQN is raised (RAAF has been managing the fleet for the last few years). So unless RCAF intends on re-barrelling some jets and using the remainder of a combined fleet for parts, RCAF wont be seeing the ‘good jets’ til 2023-ish, by which stage F-35 will have matured and the first round of production-line upgrades will likely be happening….so they could just buy ‘new’ F-35’s.

    I am surprised Canada hasn’t seriously looked at the Gripen – don’t SAAB have 12-18 parked, which were swapped for later builds? Similar engine, lower operating costs, designed to be run on a lower budget (I know only one engine, but the F414 is not known as unreliable!)… Most (if not all) weapons the RCAF has in inventory can be hung off the jet, etc…

    I’ll stop rambling now.

  31. Mick C says

    Current planning is for 100 F-35s and 12 Growlers which will be even more potent than the list you have provided.
    Actually with the Tankers and Stand Off Weapons now in service the SHornets can strike at longer range then the F-111s could.

  32. says

    Dan, I do agree if we kept at least 18 supers and upgraded them, along with 100 35s would be a smart move . This would give the RAAF a little more flexibility. With the Gripen, it would cost them to much to integrate with sims training etc. We are still very lucky to have a one replace one jet deal. Cheers.

  33. Harry says

    Dan, good points. Not only is a mixed fleet a little cheaper but Rhinos & Growlers can add a potent complimentary capability. The Growlers w/ NGJs will provide much more potent, powerful, directed and longer-range EW capability than anything built-in into the F-35s EW suite. The two capabilities will be complimentary. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them. And more Rhinos, which can become missile platforms w/ up to 16 missiles that can be ‘directed’ onto targets from behind an advanced flight of stealthy F-35s by the F-35s is a serious complimentary potency – perhaps why the USAF and USN plan to use the same tactics. Such a mix would reduce risk while the 72 F035s enter service and provide a flexible transition to a fleet of 100 F-35s and remaining Growlers , whether 12-18-24 or whatever

  34. George B says

    Can’t Canada just buy some Dassault Rafales? At least they have 2 engines and all the labelling is in French! I’m still not convinced about buying fighters with only one engine. Might be fine during peacetime but not war.

  35. Grumpy says

    Hopefully the classics which are earmarked for museum preservation won’t be part of any sale to Canada.

  36. Mick C says

    George B
    There is probably no more Combat proven Fighter in the World today than the F-16 and it has only 1 Engine.
    Actually the F-35 wont need the Growler as a escort its ECM capability is nearly as good as the Growler, you may find the Growler will spend more time working with the Army and Navy then alongside F-35s.

  37. Craigy says

    Canada have announced the ‘transparent’ selection process to replace the CF-18 with proposals expected in 2019 and a decision by 2022. The first aircraft around 2025. In the meantime they are planning to take delivery of RAAF aircraft from 2019 through 2021 subject to LM delivering F35s to the RAAF. While the purchase agreement has not been signed, the Canadians will respond to the letter of agreement.

    Source: Flightglobal

  38. Harry says

    Sorry Mick C – your wrong on that. The Growler, even now and especially when the NGJ is developed, is way more powerful than the F-35, but also quite a lot different (from what little available material there is on these subjects).

    Quotes include: …the F-35 is considered unlikely to be assigned any of the offensive roles of the EA-18G and therefore may be restricted to the adoption of some of the NGJ’s EW subsystem self-protection capabilities and only limited offensive capabilities…. The EA-18G is a high performance aircraft with an operational capability in advanced 3D EW environments, and role conversion, with the F/A-18 EF. This capability exceeds the F-35’s spectrum. Hence for many users the EA-18G may become a competitor for the F-35.”

    The Growlers primary role in EW provides for greater spectrum (wide-frequency), greater power, thus greater EW range; whereas the F-35s can (from what I have read) only jam X-band and only in the direction in front unlike a growler which blankets whole areas. They also can’t carry HARMs (internally) for the SEADs role. Thus Growlers are great for the SEADs role in order to help F-35s actually strike, or at least get out after striking, in a high-threat environment and to gain not just air superiority but air command over any theatre. But remember this is even before the NGJ has been fully developed!

    But having said that they (F-35s) also have some cyber capabilities, it is alluded, which are also very handy in this day and age. Nevertheless, the F-35 will need some serious upgrades to match a Growler, and especially when it has the NGJ. Unless of course it gets the NGJ as an internal/external pod. Read all about it here:

    So while the Growlers may indeed operate with the navy a lot (I wouldn’t want to get into a COIN operation where I needed them paired with army formations but a grey conflict like in Ukraine is possible) they would be indispensable for the RAAF F-35s in the unlikely event of high intensity operations.

  39. Sam Fulton says

    Will the USA veto this sale though? I can’t believe the Canadians have opted to go for such a short sighted approach and not go through with the “Super Hornet” deal, the whole thing is political.

    If they are so against Boeing why not look at the latest F-16 or something similar.

  40. Andrew Mielnik says

    Canadians getting our Hornets? Poles reckon THEY are!

    News item 17.12.17. Polsat News 07 am Melbourne.