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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Super Hornet fighter jets order for Canadian military

Canada's prime minister announces Boeing stopgap plan as he backs away from abandoning Lockheed Martin's F-35s, with Lockheed now allowed to make a bid.
A US Navy Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet (background) takes off and other F/A-18s, an E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft (bottom right), and a C-2A Greyhound transport aircraft (top right) on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington. Canada plans to order 18 Super Hornets. Philippe Lopez / AFP
A US Navy Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet (background) takes off and other F/A-18s, an E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft (bottom right), and a C-2A Greyhound transport aircraft (top right) on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington. Canada plans to order 18 Super Hornets. Philippe Lopez / AFP

Boeing’s ageing Super Hornet fighter jet is getting a lift after Canada said it planned to purchase 18 as a stopgap measure while the government begins a five-year bidding process for new jets to modernise its fleet.

The country will enter negotiations with Boeing to “immediately explore” the acquisition of the jets, and a separate competition will be held to replace the country’s fleet of CF-18 fighters, said the defence minister Harjit Sajjan, without giving a cost estimate for either project. A report last year by the US defence department put the unit cost at US$61 million. (For a pilot’s-eye view of a Super Hornet taking off from an aircraft carrier see below)

The announcement marks a retreat for the prime minister Justin Trudeau, who campaigned last year on abandoning Canada’s plans to buy Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jets. The company will instead now be able to bid. Meanwhile, Canada’s planned interim order bolsters Boeing’s St Louis manufacturing centre, where the company churns out Super Hornets and F-15 fighter jets.

Canada’s fleet of CF-18s is down to 77 aircraft from 138 three decades ago and the country risks not being able to meet its global military commitments, Mr Sajjan said.

“The interim fleet provides the most effective way forward to help ensure Canada remains a credible and dependable ally,” he said. Headded that the country would continue its membership in Lockheed’s Joint Strike Fighter programme.

Canada has also previously considered Saab’s Gripen, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon, produced by a consortium including BAE Systems, Airbus and Alenia Aermacchi.

It is too early to estimate the cost of the Super Hornets, said the public services and procurement minister Judy Foote.

“We have a sense of what the cost will be, but we have to enter into negotiations with Boeing,” Ms Foote said. “I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of our discussions with Boeing. Clearly they have a plane that is of interest to us.”

Boeing said it was “honoured” to supply Canada with “the only multi-role fighter aircraft that can fulfill its immediate needs for sovereign and North American defense”. All Super Hornets have been delivered on cost and on schedule, Boeing added.

While “disappointed” with Canada’s decision, Lockheed said it remains “confident the F-35 is the best solution to meet Canada’s operational requirements at the most affordable price”.

“The F-35 is combat ready and available today to meet Canada’s needs for the next 40 years.”

Representatives for Dassault, Saab and Eurofighter could not immediately be reached for comment.

* Bloomberg

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