A modern fighter jet fleet is essential for defending Canada and Canadian sovereignty – especially in our northern skies. It is a vital contribution to our partnership with our most important ally, the United States (U.S.), and for the protection of the continent that we share.
Today, the Government of Canada has announced that it will launch, within its current mandate, an open and transparent competition to replace the legacy fleet of CF-18 fighter aircraft. This competition will ensure that the Government gets the right aircraft for our women and men in uniform – at the right price – while maximizing economic benefits to Canadians.
In addition, Canada will immediately explore the acquisition of 18 new Super Hornet aircraft to supplement the CF-18s until the permanent replacement arrives. The Government will enter into discussions with the U.S. Government and Boeing regarding use of these jets for an interim period of time. “The interim fleet provides the most effective way forward to help ensure Canada remains a credible and dependable ally,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said.
Before proceeding, the Government reserves the right to decide if they can provide the interim fleet at a cost, time, level of capability, and economic value that is acceptable to Canada.
Canada’s current fleet is now more than 30 years old and is down from 138 aircraft to 77. As a result, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) faces a capability gap. We have an obligation to NORAD to have a certain number of fighter jets mission-ready at all times, as well as an obligation to NATO. The number of mission-ready planes we can put in the air today is fewer than our NORAD and NATO obligations combined. The RCAF does a good job risk-managing that gap, and has been doing so for a number of years.
Taken together, these measures will ensure that our women and men in uniform have the equipment and support they need to do the important job we ask of them every day.
“Capability Gap” disputed
Lt-General Mike Hood argues against the capability gap idea. According to media reports, he told Members of Parliament (MP’s) that the current CF-18s should be enough to carry out Canada’s obligations until 2025 provided the Liberals’ carry through with a Conservative promise of $400 million in upgrades to the fleet.
Conservative Interim Leader Rona Ambrose accused the Liberals of making the decision on the jets political. “Instead of telling our fighter pilots what they are allowed to have, why doesn’t he let them make the decision?” she asked in Question Period. The 2015 Liberals promised they would hold an open competition to replace the aging CF-18s instead of buying the F-35 jet.