The acquisition of 25 Australian F/A-18 Hornets by Canada was approved by the U.S. federal government. The acquisition is seen as essential by the Canadian Department of National Defence as the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is desperately in need of additional fighter aircraft as well as spare part. Major upgrades are needed on the actual fleet of fighter jets just to make it through another decade of operations but there is no plan to conduct structural upgrades on the Australian jets. Of the 25 F/A-18 Hornets included in the transfer, 7 will be used for spare parts.
The remaining 18 F/A-18 Hornets will be included in the fleet, and will give the RCAF the ability to better fulfill their role both domestically and abroad.
Earlier this year, Canada withdrew from the planned purchase of 18 F/A-E Super Hornets after the United States imposed heavy tariffs on Bombardier’s C Series aircraft. However, the acquisition of the Australian F/A-18 Hornets jets had the be approved by the United States because the jets were built in the US with US technology. The Australian government discussed with the U.S. State Department over the transaction with Canada because the fighter jets are under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) earlier this year.
Department of National Defence officials hope the trade dispute between Canada and the United States won’t affect the acquisition of the F/A-18 Hornets, especially since U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to punish Canada for unfair trade agreements.
With Canada’s increased participation in air operations with NATO as well as an increase in Russian patrols near the Canadian border in the Arctic, the transfer of Australian jets is becoming increasingly important to support the military commitments while maintaining its patrols in Northern Canada.
Adding to that, the ageing fleet of Canadian CF-18s is desperately in need of support until Ottawa takes an official decision on the replacement of the 35-year old aircraft. Although Canada revised its stance on the F-35, the Canadian government is still injecting money in the development of the F-35. In fact, Canada quietly added more than $54 million, bringing its contribution to roughly $500 million.
The first two jets should arrive in Canada in the summer of 2019, with the remaining 23 following shortly thereafter. That said, the method of delivery has yet to be decided.