19 décembre 2018 | Local, Aérospatial

Canada’s fighter jets up to peacetime standard in Romania

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Canada's aging fighter jets remain fit for a peacetime role, says the commander of Canada's air-policing mission in the Black Sea region.

Five of Canada's CF-18 fighter jets have been deployed to Romania since late August as part of the NATO deterrence mission in the region. Lt.-Col. Tim Woods has flown amid the 135 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he has commanded for four months.

“In a peacetime air-policing role, we're well-equipped (with the CF-18),” Woods said.

Canada's CF-18s are more than 30 years old and were originally meant to be replaced after two decades. National Defence now plans to buy 25 used jets from Australia to supplement its fleet until its yet-to-be-selected next generation of fighter jets is fully integrated in the early 2030s. The plan has been harshly criticized by the government's opposition, which was validated by a disparaging report by Canada's auditor general last month.

Canada's jets were flown in Romania to intercept a lone Russian SU-27 Flanker aircraft flying in NATO airspace on Oct. 18. Woods says he piloted one of the two jets that performed the interception.

“From our standpoint, it was a professional interaction,” Woods said. “We flew up alongside him. I'm looking as his airplane, trying to get all the information I need about his airplane, and he's probably doing the same with us.

“I waved to him, he waved to me, he gave me a thumbs-up, I gave him a thumbs-up. He took a photo of our aircraft with a hand-held camera, and then we basically left him on the way after that.”

Of the approximately 300 missions Canada's Air Task Force has flown during its current deployment in Romania, that's been the only interaction it's had with Russian forces.

For a similar deployment last year, Canada only sent four CF-18s to Romania. This year, Canada sent a fifth to be used in case another jet had to be repaired or have maintenance done.

It's becoming more difficult to repair Canada's aging jets because of the shrinking availability of parts, Woods said.

“That does become a challenge, but that's what we have to work with.”

The CF-18s require 24 hours of maintenance for each hour the jets are flown, compared to 21 hours required in 2014.

Because the Romanian mission is ongoing, information about it is classified. Therefore, Woods wouldn't disclose details about the frequency of repairs made to Canada's jets there. But he did say Canada's fifth jet “came in very handy on this mission.”

Asked about the capability of Canada's fleet in future, Woods said he agrees with the government's assessment.

Canada's Air Task Force will return from Romania in January. While the Canadian Armed Forces haven't announced it, Woods said he expects Canada to return a similar-sized force to the NATO mission next year for the same duration.

Canada has provided troops and jets to the mission periodically since 2014.

A previous version of this story mistakenly referred to Lt.-Col. Tim Woods as Tim Cook. iPolitics regrets the error.

https://ipolitics.ca/2018/12/18/canadas-fighter-jets-up-to-peacetime-standard-in-romania/

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    10 septembre 2020 | Local, Aérospatial

    Coping with COVID: The RCAF adjusts to the new world

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    3 juillet 2019 | Local, Aérospatial

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