The Commonwealth has agreed to the sale of 18 Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 A/B Classic Hornets to the Government of Canada.
The offer follows an expression of interest from the Canadian Government received in September. The sale of the aircraft and associated spares remains subject to final negotiations and Country of Origin export approvals.
Defence plans to withdraw its fleet of F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets from service by 2022, which will be progressively replaced by the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, Australia's new fifth-generation air combat capability.
Defence Minister Marise Payne spoke with her Canadian counterpart, Minister for National Defence Harjit Sajjan, to welcome the sale.
“Australia greatly values our longstanding and broad bilateral defence relationship with Canada, and this decision is another example of our close and strong partnership,” Minister Payne said.
“The aircraft will supplement Canada’s existing fleet as it develops and implements its plan to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force fighter jet fleet.
Transfer of the first two aircraft is expected to occur from the first half of 2019, in line with the current plan to transition to the Joint Strike Fighter.
Australia’s first two Joint Strike Fighters are expected to arrive in Australia at the end of 2018.
Boeing Defense and Aerospace, which is keen to sell Canada the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as a replacement for its ageing CF-18 Hornet fleet, had earlier released the following statement:
"We have read reports that the Government of Canada is choosing to purchase used F/A-18 Classic Hornets from the Royal Australian Air Force in lieu of new Super Hornet fighter jets.
"The Boeing Company respects the Canadian government’s decision and applauds the government’s continued use of a two engine fighter solution, which is a critical part of their northern Arctic border defence, NORAD cooperation, and coast to coast to coast security.
"Although we will not have the opportunity to grow our supply base, industrial partnerships and jobs in Canada the way we would if Canada purchased new Super Hornets, we will continue to look to find productive ways to work together in the future. Boeing is fortunate to have an outstanding 100 years of partnership with Canada, which had culminated in our $US4 billion annual economic impact in Canada, and we look forward to partnering for the next 100 years."
Canada's decision is widely seen as a snub in response to the US Government's move to impose an 80 per cent tariff on imports of the Canadian-built Bombardier passenger aircraft. Officially it has declared the purchase of the ex-RAAF Hornets as an interim measure as it seeks to implement a competitive tender for the replacement of the CF-18s.