By Bijan Razzaghi
The Royal Canadian Air Force has received the first two F/A-18A/Bs from the Royal Australian Air Force. These aircraft will replace some of Canada’s CF-18 airframes that have flown passed the maximum allotted flight hours. This recent procurement is likely a stop-gap solution until Canada procures either the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II or Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
The F/A-18s procured by Canada is the earliest variants of the legacy Hornet fleet built between 1983 and 1987. These aircraft have been previously upgraded to employ the GPS guided JDAM and the HMQS (Helmet Mounted Cueing System). The aircraft will undergo further modifications to add features unique to the CF-18 such as the McD night identification light. Canada will eventually procure as many as 25 F/A-18s from Australia. This deal includes MRO (Maintenance Repair and Overhaul support.
The CF-18s primary role for the Royal Canadian Air Force is air defense of Canadian air space and to provide support for coalition forces overseas. CF-18s have regularly deployed to support US-led operations in South West Asia. The CF-18 is Canada’s only operational tactical fighter.
It is likely that these replacement aircraft will continue to be in service through the 2020s until Canada procures a next-generation aircraft. The potential for an F-35 sale is possible given to the drop in the projected unit cost below $100 million.
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