DAVID PUGLIESE, OTTAWA CITIZEN
The Defence department's procurement chief says the Royal Canadian Air Force might not need the seven used Australian F-18 aircraft being purchased for parts afterall.
Canada is buying 25 used F-18s from Australia, with 18 of those to be flown and seven to be either stripped down for parts or used for testing. The aircraft to be flown will augment the existing RCAF CF-18 fleet until a new generation fighter jet can be purchased.
But Pat Finn, the Department of National Defence's Assistant Deputy Minister for Materiel, said there may be no need for the seven F-18s. “The seven, whether or not we actually take them at this point, we're still looking at that,” Finn recently told the Commons defence committee. “What we're actually finding is the number of spares that they've been able to provide to us is more than adequate. Rather than take aircraft apart and go through that cost, we're taking the spares. We may not, in fact, at this point look at any of the seven.”
It is unclear whether there will be a reduction in the cost of the purchase or the overall project cost if the seven airframes are not acquired.
The DND also clarified what is happening with the engines on the Australian F-18s. Rumours have been circulating in the retired military community that the engines are being stripped out of the planes and given back to Australia.
“Only the engines from the first two Australian F-18s (four engines total) are being returned to Australia, at their request,” explained DND spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier. “Australia needs those engines to meet their own operational requirements.”
In order to take advantage of an advanced delivery date for the first two Australian aircraft, Canada agreed to return those aircraft's engines to Australia, but the plan is to get an equivalent number of engines back at a later date, he added.
“Canada has sufficient engines in reserve to support this plan and this will have no impact on operations,” Le Bouthillier stated. “We therefore found this to be a reasonable request, and agreed to it.”