Canada has finalized a deal for 25 second-hand F/A-18A/B Hornets being bought from Australia. The first aircraft are expected to arrive in the spring, and begin operations with the Canadian forces this summer. The Trudeau government announced back in 2017 that it would buy 18 used Australian F-18s as an interim measure to bolster the air force until the entire Canadian fleet of CF-18s is replaced, beginning in the mid-2020s. A second group of aircraft will arrive later in the year. Overall, 18 of the used jets will make their way into operational service, while seven airframes will be used for testing or harvested for spare parts. Ottawa is also purchasing additional spares as part of the deal.
The F/A-18A/B Hornet aircrafts are being purchased for CAD90 million, but Canada estimates it will cost around CAD500 million to own and operate the aircraft, including personnel, infrastructure, and aircraft upgrade costs. The first modification when the aircraft arrive will be to install Canadian flight software, and to install ejections seats and lighting systems used by Canada’s existing CF-18 fleet. The goal is for the aircraft to become identical to the current fleet. The CF-18 Hornet is a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) fighter aircraft, based on the American McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighter.
The Australians had to get permission from the U.S. to sell the planes because they were manufactured in the States, but officials with Defence said the deal between Canada and Australia was finalized in November. Canada is in the process of finding a replacement for its CF-18s, but the second-hand aircraft were purchased to fill a new capability gap identified by the government. Some have questioned the rationale behind buying and upgrading old aircraft while simultaneously pursuing a replacement fighter. Three years after taking office, the Canadian government has finally signed a controversial deal to buy 25 used F-18 fighters from Australia, but seems to be dragging its feet on the promised competition to buy a new-generation fighter.