Canada has increased the number of F/A-18 A/B ‘classic’ Hornet fighters it wants to buy from Australia from 18 to 25, a Senate Estimates hearing has been told.
An official expression of interest in the Hornets was received from Canada last September.
Air Vice Marshal Cath Roberts, head of Aerospace Division at the Capability and Sustainment Group (CASG), said Australia had provided Canada with a letter of cost proposal in December for 18 aircraft and spares.
“They accepted our offer in December, but they have also put in a further request for some seven aircraft for system testing, training and spares,” she disclosed.
AVM Roberts said the asking price involved a general offer rather than cost per aircraft and undertook on notice to advise Senator Rex Patrick of the amount.
As of 12 June this figure had not been notified, Senator Patrick’s office advised ADM.
Earlier in the month the Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported that the Canadian government had set aside up to C$500 million (A$507 million) for the purchase, but referred to the acquisition of 18 rather than 25 aircraft and spares.
Surprisingly, the newspaper quoted Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough as saying negotiations with Australia were still underway. She did confirm however that she expected the first two aircraft to be delivered in 2019.
Originally, Canada had intended to supplement its fleet of 85 Boeing CF(F/A)-18 A/B fighters with 18 new Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets. This plan was cancelled in favour of the Australian Hornets when Boeing accused Canada’s Bombardier of dumping its CS100 airliner into the US market after receiving unfair subsidies from Ottawa.
The RAAF’s 71 F/A-18 A/Bs are due to be retired by 2022 in favour of 72 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters but it is not clear how soon more than one-third of the Hornet fleet could be made available for Canada.
Canada requires the additional aircraft to fill interim operational gaps prior to the anticipated arrival in 2025 of the first of 88 advanced fighters to be provided under a future fighter competition launched last December.
Both the Australian and Canadian aircraft have completed similar upgrade programs in the past decade and offer similar sensor and avionics capabilities.