VICTORIA, British Columbia — The Canadian government wants to acquire the Super Hornet to fill its fighter-jet capability gap on an interim basis, a move that would also take the pressure off the country's prime minister on the thorny political issue of the F-35.
Liberal Party Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had promised during last year’s election campaign his government would never buy the F-35 Jjoint Sstrike Ffighter, but that plane is still favored by Canada’s air force. Any decision to exclude the F-35 from a competition to acquire new jets could also spark a messy legal battle.
But the proposed deal to buy Super Hornets on an interim basis would push off any fighter competition well into the late 2020s, allowing Trudeau to keep his election promise while dealing with the issue of replacing the country's aging fleet of CF-18 jets.
The National Post newspaper reported Monday that the Canadian government was intent on proceeding with the Super Hornet purchase but that a final decision still had to be made.
Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said last week in Ottawa that Canada will soon be looking at a capability gap due to the aging CF-18 fleet. "Today, we are risk-managing a gap between our NORAD and NATO commitments and the number of fighters available for operations," he told industry representatives at the CANSEC defense trade show in Ottawa. "In the 2020s, we can foresee a growing capability gap, and this I find unacceptable and it's one thing that we plan to fix."
Boeing and Lockheed Martin have yet to respond with a comment on the proposed deal.
But industry sources confirm Boeing recently presented its plan to the Canadian government for the purchase of Super Hornets on an "interim basis" and received an enthusiastic response.
The previous Conservative Party government had committed to purchasing 65 F-35s, but officials put that plan temporarily on hold amid accusations that the Canadian military had tried to hide the full cost of the procurement.