The Canadian government has just penned the deal to buy 25 used F-18 fighter jets from Australia. It is expected that they will be in use by the Canadian armed forces by the summer of 2019.
The National Post’s David Pugliese reports that 18 of the jets will be flown by the Canadian military, while the remaining seven will be used for testing and spare parts.
In an interview, Pat Finn, the assistant deputy minister for material at the Department of National Defence, spoke to Postmedia about when the jets are expected to be in action “the first two aircraft will be here this spring… I would say it could be by the summer the first couple are on the flight line and painted with the maple leaf.”
While the jets themselves cost about $90 million, the Trudeau government estimates that the total purchase would cost around $500 million. Finn said that this number included all of the additional expenses necessary for operation of the aircraft.
According to the National Post, the extra costs cover such things as spare parts, outfitting with special Canadian equipment and software and testing.
In addition, $50 million has to be allocated toward contingency funds for fixing any problems with the jets, $35 million for salaries for military and civilian personnel, and $30 million for new infrastructure to house and maintain the jets.
Meeting Canada’s Obligation to Protect its Allies and North American
The aircraft are being bought in order to deal with what Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan calls a “capability gap.” He says that Canada does not have enough fighter jets to fulfil its commitments to NATO and NORAD.
Conservative MPs have criticised the government, arguing that Canada has more than enough resources to fulfil its obligations to its allies. Some argue that this deal was made to delay the purchase of new fighter jets.
Why is Canada buying old fighter jets?
Initially, the Trudeau government had planned to buy 18 brand new Super Hornet fighter jets from the US aerospace company Boeing.
However, in 2017 Boeing told the US Department of Commerce that Canada was giving subsidies to Bombardier, allowing it to undercut Boeing by selling its C-series passenger planes in the US at low prices.
In response, US president Donald Trump imposed a 300 percent tariff on Bombardier planes, to which Canada responded by cancelling its $5 billion planned project to buy the Super Hornets.
Auditor General says the new purchase does nothing to fix fundamental weaknesses in airforce
In November of 2018, Auditor General Michael Ferguson released a report arguing that the purchasing of the Australian jets would not fix structural weaknesses with Canada’s current CF-18 fleet, which include its decreasing combat capability and shortage of pilots and maintenance workers.
“The Australian F/A-18s will need modifications and upgrades to allow them to fly until 2032… These modifications will bring the F/A-18s to the same level as the CF-18s but will not improve the CF-18’s combat capability,” he wrote.
“In our opinion, purchasing interim aircraft does not bring National Defence closer to consistently meeting the new operational requirement introduced in 2016.”