24 septembre 2018 | Local, Aérospatial

U.S. approves Canada's purchase of used Australian fighter jets


The sign-off from the Americans for the 25-jet purchase was needed because the aircraft were built in the U.S. with U.S. technology.

The U.S. government has approved Canada’s purchase of used F-18 fighter jets from Australia, paving the way for the deal to be completed by the end of the year.

The sign-off from the Americans was needed because the aircraft were built in the U.S. with U.S. technology.

Dan Le Bouthillier of the Department of National Defence said Friday negotiations with Australia over the sale of the 25 used fighter jets is on-going.

“Should all negotiations and approvals move forward as planned, aircraft would start arriving in Canada in 2019, and the project remains on track to achieve this milestone,” he said. “The delivery plan, including mode of delivery, will be finalized once negotiations are complete and the aircraft being purchased are selected.”

In June, Postmedia reported that Canada had boosted the number of used Australian fighter jets it is purchasing to 25 from 18 but that the deal still hinged on approval from the U.S. government.

Although U.S.-Canada relations have hit a slump, with President Donald Trump vowing to punish Canadians because of ongoing trade disputes, DND officials hope the situation won’t affect approvals for the fighter jet sale to proceed.

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.  But it has added seven more used Australian F-18 aircraft to the deal.

Those extra aircraft will be stripped down for parts or used for testing.

The exact cost of purchasing the 25 aircraft, along with weapons and other equipment, is not yet known, Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough pointed out earlier this year. The Liberal government has set aside up to $500 million for the project.

Earlier this year, Pat Finn, the Department of National Defence’s assistant deputy minister of materiel, said the government has received what’s called a letter of cost proposal on the impending sale. “The Australians have now gone to the U.S. State Department for the transfer under ITAR,” Finn explained to MPs on the Commons defence committee at the time.

Finn indicated the DND wants to have the deal in place by the end of this year. “The idea of firming this up in the fall of 2018 was for the start of delivery of the two first aircraft to be next summer, and then quickly beyond it,” he added.

The federal government has confirmed the Australian aircraft will be operating alongside the RCAF’s other CF-18s at Bagotville, Que., and Cold Lake, Alta.  “The aircraft will be employed at 3 Wing Bagotville and 4 Wing Cold Lake,” a government official noted. “DND is currently reviewing infrastructure requirements to accommodate the additional aircraft. Any modifications are expected to be minimal as the supplemental jets are of similar age and design to the CF-18.”

The Liberal government had 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 Super Hornets. That project would have cost more than US$5 billion.