18 juin 2018 | Local, Aérospatial

Canada to purchase 25 used Australian F-18 jets if U.S. gives approval

David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen

The Liberals had originally announced they would buy 18 used Australian jets to augment Canada's CF-18s. The extra aircraft will likely be stripped down for parts

Canada has boosted the number of used Australian fighter jets it is purchasing to 25, but the deal still hinges on approval from the U.S. government.

The Liberal government originally announced it would buy 18 used Australian F-18 jets to augment the Royal Canadian Air Force's CF-18s until new aircraft can be purchased in the coming years. It has added seven more aircraft to the deal, Dan Blouin, a spokesman for the Department of National Defence, confirmed Friday.

Those extra aircraft will likely be stripped down for parts.

It is not known yet if the seven aircraft will be flown to Canada or shipped, Blouin added.

The exact cost of the aircraft, along with weapons and other equipment, is not yet known as negotiations are still underway, Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough recently told journalists. The Liberal government has set aside up to $500 million for the project and that would cover the seven added jets.

An Australian Senate hearing was recently told that Canada was presented with a cost proposal last year. “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,” Australian Air Vice Marshal Cath Roberts told the hearing.

The U.S. government is examining the deal and will have to give its approval before Australia can sell the F-18s to Canada, because the F-18s were built in the U.S. with American technology. Canada is hoping for the U.S. approval sometime in the summer.

Although U.S.-Canada relations have hit a slump, with President Donald Trump vowing to punish Canadians over economic disputes, the DND does not expect that to affect approval of the fighter jet deal.

Pat Finn, DND's assistant deputy minister of materiel, has said he expects a deal by the end of the year with deliveries of the Australian planes to begin in the summer of 2019. The government originally planned for the arrival of the first used aircraft next January.

The government had originally planned to buy 18 new Super Hornet fighter jets from U.S. aerospace giant Boeing. But, last year, Boeing complained to the U.S. Commerce Department that Canadian subsidies for Quebec-based Bombardier allowed it to sell its C-series civilian passenger aircraft in the U.S. at cut-rate prices. As a result, the Trump administration brought in a tariff of almost 300 per cent against the Bombardier aircraft sold in the U.S.

In retaliation, Canada cancelled the deal to buy the 18 Super Hornets. That project would have cost more than US$5 billion.

In the meantime, the federal government expects to issue next year a request for proposals from aerospace firms who want to take part in the competition to provide Canada with 88 new fighter jets. That project, with a $19 billion price-tag, would see the purchase of a new fleet of planes that would replace both the CF-18s and the used Australian jets.A winning bidder is expected to be selected in spring 2021 and the first of the new aircraft would be delivered four years later.

The last CF-18 will be retired in 2032.


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