OTTAWA, Ontario --- Canada recently announced its decision to purchase Australian F-18 aircraft to supplement the current fleet of fighter aircraft. These aircraft are of similar age and design to Canada’s CF-18 fleet and can be integrated quickly with minimal modifications, training and infrastructure changes.
In order to integrate these aircraft into Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) operations, the following steps will be taken. Once complete, the aircraft purchased from Australia will integrate seamlessly with the current CF-18 fleet.
Life extension and upgrade
The Australian F-18 aircraft will be modified and undergo the technical work to be brought to a similar configuration to Canada’s CF-18 aircraft, and to ensure that they will be available to supplement the CF-18 fleet until the future fighter fleet is procured. Canada has extensive experience doing this with our current fleet of fighter jets.
Modifications and maintenance of the current CF-18 fleet will continue to be required. The Government of Canada has evaluated the required work and associated costs to sustain the current fleet and these additional aircraft.
Over the years, both Australia and Canada have made significant investments in the development of structural modifications and capability that have allowed the structural life of our respective F-18s to be extended. More recently however, Canada invested in the development of additional structural modifications that Australia did not. These modifications are currently being applied to Canadian aircraft, and will also be applied to Australian aircraft acquired by Canada thereby allowing a further life extension.
These aircraft are currently being employed in operations. Inspections have confirmed that they can be life extended and upgraded to the level of our current fleet.
Acquiring spare parts
Part of the purchase from the Australian government will include spare parts to help sustain these additional aircraft and the existing CF-18 fleet until the future fighter fleet is operational. Canada also has an existing supply chain for F-18 parts that we will continue to use.
Training and personnel
Training for the Australian F-18 is identical to that which is required for the present fleet of CF-18s. More aircraft will require more pilots and more technicians to maintain the aircraft. As outlined in Strong, Secure, Engaged, energized retention and recruitment efforts are underway to meet these personnel requirements.
Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, requires the Canadian Armed Forces to fulfil missions at home, in North America, and elsewhere in the world, concurrently. With respect to Canada’s fighter capability, the Royal Canadian Air Force must be able to provide a number of mission-ready planes to fully and simultaneously meet Canada’s commitments to both NORAD and NATO.
Canada does not currently have the aircraft or personnel to fully meet these commitments simultaneously. The supplementation of additional aircraft will provide required capacity to meet our obligation in a seamless way with our current fleet.
The first supplemental aircraft are expected to be available for operational employment in the early 2020s, after structural upgrades are completed to match the CF-18 fleet.
The aircraft will be employed at 3 Wing Bagotville and 4 Wing Cold Lake. DND is currently reviewing infrastructure requirements to accommodate the additional aircraft. Any modifications are expected to be minimal as the supplemental jets are of similar age and design to the CF-18.