Minister Payne confirms RAAF classic Hornet sale to Canada

Eighteen ex-RAAF classic Hornets will be heading to Canada. (Defence)

Defence Minister Marise Payne has confirmed the Government has agreed to sell 18 RAAF F/A-18A/B ‘classic’ Hornets to Canada.

The Minister’s announcement on Wednesday comes after Canadian officials overnight confirmed they would not be proceeding with a planned purchase of 18 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets from Boeing, and would instead agree to a letter of offer from Australia for the classic Hornets.

Canada operates a fleet of about 80 CF-18 classic Hornets, and will likely be looking to supplement that fleet with a mix of flyable airframes and spares holdings from the RAAF to extend the CF-18’s life of type until it makes a decision on a permanent replacement air combat capability in 2019.

“Australia greatly values our longstanding and broad bilateral defence relationship with Canada, and this decision is another example of our close and strong partnership,” Minister Payne said.

“The aircraft will supplement Canada’s existing fleet as it develops and implements its plan to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force fighter jet fleet.”

Minister Payne said the first two aircraft would be handed over in early 2019, “subject to final negotiations and country of origin export approvals.”

But the transfer of all 18 aircraft is likely to be drawn out over a longer period due to Australia’s need to maintain a viable air combat capability until the F-35 achieves initial operating capability with 3SQN in 2020/21.

Canada is to augment its Hornet fleet with ex-RAAF aircraft. (RCAF)


  1. Gforgeorge says

    Will be interesting to see if Washington gives the nod…..Boeing will be leaning on Trump to stop this going ahead now that the Canadians have terminated the super hornet deal.

  2. Josh James says

    The Canadian government can’t back out of the F-35 partnership because it will cost them millions in tech and industrial deals with Lockheed Martin. They can’t buy F/A-18 Super Hornets because of ongoing investigations and pending industrial action with Boeing over commercial airliners (which begs the question of why they ordered the Supers in the first place). I believe rock and a hard place has another new definition.

    Maybe order Typhoons, or just bite the bullet and launch the new fighter comp!

  3. Raymond says

    AA, I know this is off-topic sorry, but is there any news on the RAAF’s Gulfstream acquisition? It was originally meant to be complete by 30th November 2017…

  4. Pappy says

    Typhoons cost more than F-22’s, Josh. Add the fact that they’re past their prime (done eould srgue they never reached it) and the Typhoon is a bad idea.
    This is politics, sprinkled with ewual liberal servings of Boeing greed and tantrum. Reminds me of the USAF tanker deal.
    Rhinos and F-35’s would be an ideal force structure with long range refuellers. Remind you of anyone?

  5. says

    Josh James, they could back out of the deal, but the question is will they? My guess by going by their statements is they will have made up their minds( if not already ) that they will be going for the 35. Like you said they will lose a lot of work if they didn’t. Canada will put on a bogey transparent fighter tender , and will chose it regardless!

  6. says

    If Canada does buy the F35 it will give up it’s previous desire of having 2 engine fighters for safety, Just like the RAAF did with the F35.
    Given the amout of engine shutdowns and safe recoveries on 1 engine here and in Canada with the Hornets; and both countries having vast areas of hostile land and coastline. This seems to me to be a very expensive snd dangerous option. The F404 has been very reliable while the F35 is still having major problems this late in it’s development.

  7. Philip says

    Hi Laurie,
    I’m curious about your comment regarding Hornet engine shutdowns – please share any links to support your claim.

  8. says

    Laurie, I tend to agree with you on that but I’m sure they will get it right . Pratt are very reliable engines, so I really don’t foresee any great risk. Just my opinion. Cheers.

  9. Gforgeorge says

    Yes Laurie these engine problems with the Hornets? I know the Pratt & Whitney engine for the 35 had issues with the fan disintegrating which has been rectified, the F-16″”s have Pratt & Whitney engines as well but they have proven to be a very capable aircraft. The 35 engine actually has less moving parts and therefore will be less troublesome maintenance wise.

  10. Jason says

    Given the questionable issues with the F35 one tends to think the Saab Vigen may have been a better choice. As for the sale of some “classic” Hornets to our Canadian friends, lets hope others dont spit the dummy and stop the sale.

  11. Mick C says

    What major problems is the F-35 still having? Can you please provide some reliable backup to these claims

  12. PAUL says

    I guess US Navy is in the same boat Re the Engine situation going from F14 to F18 now F35. The Tomcats had issues with the TF30’s the GE-F110 engines were way more reliable like the F404, one would think as more reliable modern engines continue to evolve one would be safe with 1 over 2. Eg F16 operators would be ones to look at & they would expect improvements with F35.

  13. jasonp says

    Jason – erm…Saab Vigen???
    I assume you mean the Saab Gripen, the little fighter which, no matter how capable, has no systems or support commonality with any of our allies, and has only been ordered by 2nd tier European or Asian nations.

  14. Raymond says

    Thanks Philip.

    jasonp – I understand that the Gripen is fully NATO-interoperable. At least it’s claimed to be, anyway.

  15. harry says

    I really like the Saab Gripen E/Fs – they have AESA radar, high load capacity, one of the best ITR (instantaneous turn rates, helpful for dodging missiles, use the S/Hornets engines, and are fully networked, being able to carry AIMs, meteors and soon enough NSMs/JSMs. Their small profile also gives a low radar visibility. They also go roughly the same distance as F-35 but at much greater speeds.

    But they seem to cost way more than F-35s advertised price (not sure if that is with or without engines…), which is a bit strange because it supposed to be a cheaper aircraft. In terms of dollars per flight time and maintenance they definitely are but such a ‘low-cost’, in any lo-hi mix, fighter is pretty pricey, right?

  16. Raymond says

    For $388m the RAAF gets to exchange 18 x F/A-18s that have served 30+ years for four brand new F-35s… not too bad!

  17. John N says

    Raymond (and others),

    A word of caution on the supposed US$388m (approx. $500m, both C and A dollar) windfall for the Australian Government out of the sale of the 18 Classic Hornets and spares.

    From what I have read the Canadian Government is allocating C$500m for the procurement of the 18 RAAF airframes, but it will also include ‘upgrade’ costs too.

    This is a project cost, I’d be surprised if the Australian Government receives much more than A$200 for the 18 airframes and spares, the remainder is more than likely to be spent in Canada having those airframes upgraded and modified to whatever standard Canada requires.

    US$388m (A$500m), don’t think so, probably more likely A$200m at the most.

    Hope I’m proved wrong, but I don’t think so.


    John N

  18. Philip says

    Hi John N

    I don’t seek to depute your assessment of the amount that may be ultimately paid to the Australian Government – although I have not yet read the same – rather, even at your lower sales figure, it must considered be a win over the impending cost to the Australian Government of having to remove the sensitive equipment and engines from all the F/A-18s, and a fate of either a F111-style burial or banishment to the Alice Springs or Arizona Boneyard that still awaits the remaining jets (museum displays excepted).

    Perhaps there is a further deal to be explored in the mid 2020s to provide the odd spare part to the Royal Malaysian Airforce’s F/A-18Ds, but … bring your own spanner and pay by weight,

  19. jasonp says

    Seriously, who cares if we receive any money for them or not. They would have been destined for landfill anyway!

  20. PAUL says

    The Gripen NG has lower operational cost’s compared to Aircraft like F16 but is more expensive to buy.

    Don’t think its more expensive than F35? Its a great Aircraft but agree supportability & spares availability in some global regions may be an issue during times of high demand. Canada did look at Gripen NG at one stage.

  21. Harry says

    Paul – good point about spares and supplies.

    I think its (JAS39NG or E/Fs) only more expensive, at roughly $120 mil per copy fly away (plus I think this price might include the engine), than the ‘advertised’ price of the F-35 or what was advertised once full-rate production ramps up. But the F-35 pricing is very murky as it doesn’t specify if it includes things like, engines (some estimates have them in and some not), helmet system (not finished), ALIS system (not finished) and whatever else. It certainly won’t include all the money for base and runway upgrades necessary for the F-35, etc. At that price it makes you think who would go for it, besides Sweden and Brazil…

  22. John N says


    The First eight F-35 production lots did not include the engine cost.

    But the two most recent lots, LRIP 9 and LRIP 10, have included engine costs.

    For example, the RAAF’s first two aircraft from LRIP 6 (2014) cost US$103.0m (excluding engine).

    The eight airframes for the RAAF being produced in LRIP 10 (2018) cost US$94.6 (including engine).

  23. Mick C says

    Using Flyaway costs of an Aircraft is a poor way to evaluate the overall costs of a program because that doesn’t include the costs of trg both Air and Ground Crews, any Base upgrades required, the costs of either buying new weapons or integrating existing weapons onto the new Aircraft.
    Australia like most 1st world Air Forces doesn’t take much notice of Flyaway prices, the picture is much bigger than that.

  24. says

    I have seen company management over the decades make dumb decisions but the recent attack on Bombardier by Boeing takes the cake. Canada was set to ultimately take upwards of 80 or more Supers as Classic replacements and now that much needed sale has evaporated due to Boeing corporate stupidity. With PM Trudeau’s lineage I would imagine the Dassault sales teams are chafing at the bit.

    Good one Boeing.

  25. Harry says

    Jim – I wonder if Boing was trying to lick Trump’s ass by such an unnecessary action, to curry favour

  26. Dee Thom says

    Hey Jim,
    Maybe the Canadians could set up their old Mustang jigs, and have a Mustang Summer.
    Loved the book,
    Cheers, Dee.

  27. Craigy says

    @ Jim Thorn. Canada were only planning on buying 18 as an interim while they completed their transparent competition

  28. says

    Jim, first of all I loved reading your articles as I grew up with AA in the house. Dassault don’t stand a chance , same with Typhoon. They will go with the 35, as to much work for Canada is a win win. Politics I know🙄