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Canada to up RAAF Hornet buy to 25 jets

written by australianaviation.com.au | June 22, 2018
A RAAF Hornet taxis into its parking spot at Cold Lake, Alberta on June 6 after its arrival there for Exercise Maple Flag 51. (RCAF)

Canada has increased to 25 the number of F/A-18A/B Hornets it has requested to acquire from Australia to complement its own force of similar CF-188A/B Hornets, Canadian media has reported.

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 Senate Estimates by the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group’s (CASG) Head Aerospace Systems Division, AVM Cath Roberts.

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“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,” AVM Roberst told the committee in late May.

US State Department approval for Canada to acquire the ex-RAAF Hornets from 2019 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. Eighty-five 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 plans to buy 65 F-35s in 2015 pending the results of a new study.

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As a stop-gap Canada then 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.

RAAF Hornets deploy to Maple Flag

Meanwhile, eight F/A-18A/B Hornets from the RAAF’s 75 Squadron deployed to Cold Lake AFB in Alberta, Canada to participate in Exercise Maple Flag earlier this month.

The exercise, from June 11 to 22, was a complex international training event involving the air forces of Canada, Belgium, Brazil, France, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the US and Australia.

VIDEO – Fast jet action at the recent Maple Flag 51, as posted on the RCAF YouTube channel

“Exercise Maple Flag offers our people realistic training within a complex operating environment that is both challenging and constantly evolving,” detachment commander and commanding officer 75SQN, WGCDR Michael Grant said in a statement.

“There are immense benefits to training as we mean to fight, and so often we fight as part of a combined or coalition force which means training opportunities like this are invaluable to our operational readiness.”

Training scenarios at Maple Flag were to include command and control, air-to-air and air-to-surface combat, air-to-air refuelling, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, tactical airlift, tactical aviation, and close air support.

Three RAAF Hornets parked on the ramp at Cold Lake alongside Royal Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornets ahead of Exercise Maple Flag 51. (RCAF)

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