he F-35 fighter jet is designed to replace the country’s aging fleet of CF-18s Hornets, but Canadian procurement has been mired in controversy since 2010. Now a trade dispute is putting a sotp gap purchase of Super Hornets in jeopardy as wel.

The F-35 fighter jet is designed to replace the country’s ageing fleet of CF-18 Hornets, but Canadian procurement has been mired in controversy since 2010. Now a trade dispute is putting a stop-gap purchase of Super Hornets in jeopardy as well.
Photo Credit: Samuel King Jr./U.S. Air Force

Trade wars and fighter jets

Gently used fighter jets for sale to good home

Act-5: In which Canada courts Australia to make the U.S jealous

The Players: manufacturers: Boeing, Bombardier, Lockheed-Martin, McDonnell-Douglas

The Countries:  the U.S, Canada, Australia

In the world of international trade, buying military hardware is a really big deal, and fiercely competitive.

For decades, Canada’s procurement of any type of military hardware has been mired in various degrees of controversy. One such controversy that has been going on for years now is the replacement for Canada’s ageing fleet of Cf-18 Hornet fighter jets.

Canada’s fleet of CF-18A/B’s are ageing and replacement was set for this year. That’s not going to happen, and the fleet may possibly be extended even to 2025.
Canada’s fleet of CF-18A/B’s are ageing and replacement was set for this year. That’s not going to happen, and the fleet may possibly be extended even to 2025. © Canadian Forces

Originally, the Lockheed-Martin F-35  was chosen by the former Conservative government in 2010 to be the new replacement for the now 40 year old F-18 design. Millions of Canadian dollars had already been invested into the F-35 development programme.  This only added to the the ensuing controversy over the “single source” procurement , i.e., not through a bidding process.

Not only a controversy domestically, but internationally as well as that single source procurement also upset other manufacturers like Boeing, and Dassault of France and others who felt they were shut out of the bidding and potentially lucrative contract.

The Boeing Super Hornet, looks similar to the Hornet but in essence is a different plane bigger, stronger, more fuel capacity, more weapons capability, and upgraded technology.
The Boeing Super Hornet, looks similar to the McDonnell-Douglas Hornet but in essence is a different plane bigger, stronger, more fuel capacity, more weapons capability, and upgraded technology. Canada was to buy 18 Boeing planes, but that’s now in doubt due to a trade dispute involving Bombardier © Boeing

Then a new Liberal government was elected, partly because of the controversy over the F-35 programme and by sayings aid they would cancel the costly F-35 and seek a less expensive option, adding that a proper bidding process for a fleet replacement would be organized.

With several CF-18’s being used extensively in missions overseas, the Liberals then announced that Canada would buy some 18 of the newer Boeing Super Hornets F-18E/F as a stop-gap replacement of the oldest CF-18s until a final decision was made on which jet would be the fleet replacement. They then added, in spite of their own criticism of the F-35’s capabilities during the Conservative effort to get the plane, that in spite of the previous controversy the F-35 would nevertheless be allowed to enter the eventual fleet replacement competition.

In April of this year, Boeing-which also makes passenger jets, launched a trade complaint against Canada’s Bombardier jetmaker claiming unfair competition practices due to Canadian government subsidies. This is even though the Bombardier C-series doesn’t directly threaten Boeing’s passenger models.

Boeing’s trade complaint followed a deal struck between Alain Bellemare, left, president and CEO of Bombardier, and Ed Bastian, right, CEO of Delta Air Lines, for 75 CS100 aircraft last year.
Boeing’s trade complaint followed a deal struck between Alain Bellemare, left, president and CEO of Bombardier, and Ed Bastian, right, CEO of Delta Air Lines, for 75 CS100 aircraft last year. © Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press

“We had identified that the Super Hornets could potentially fill that gap, but … Boeing has not been a partner, especially when it comes to dealing with our aerospace sector, so we are looking at other options”. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan  Wed. Sept 6/17

The federal government said if Boeing doesn’t back down, it would cancel the Super Hornet deal.  Boeing refused to back down saying Bombardier could potentially grow to in fact become a rival in the same process that has led Airbus to become a major competitor, and as such could harm the company when looking at “the bigger picture”.

U.S. aerospace giant Boeing is not backing down in its trade complaint over Montreal-based Bombardier’s C-series passenger jets, which Boeing says are unfairly subsidized. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters
U.S. aerospace giant Boeing is not backing down in its trade complaint over Montreal-based Bombardier’s C-series passenger jets, which Boeing says are unfairly subsidised. © Ints Kalnins/Reuters

Now comes the next act, with Australia and maybe Kuwait in the wings.

In the meantime, Australia, which has signed on the F-35 programme, had itself bought two-dozen Super Hornets as a stop-gap measure.

It recently announced that it planned to sell some of its F/A-18s as the F-35’s come online.

In light of Canada’s threat in retaliation to Boeing that it might not buy the 18 Boeing Super Hornets,  comes news that Canadian officials had been sent to Australia to talk about buying their used Hornets.

Officials say it would be a far cheaper option than buying the new Super Hornets as the Australian F/A-18 is very similar to Canada’s current Cf-18’s.

Kuwait is also selling off F-18 Hornets as they are replaced by the Super Hornet, and other countries as well have used fighters on the market as they pick up F-35’s.

Canada was originally seeking to replace its fighter fleet with the F-35’s starting this year because the Hornet programme was phased out meaning parts could become scarce. With news the U.S Navy, may be extending its fleet of F/A18’s up to 2025, that means parts would not be so difficult and expensive to come by, meaning that Canada also could extend the life of its CF-18’s.

Chief of the Defence Staff Tom Lawson (centre) walks past two F-18 fighter jets as he talks with fellow members of the Canadian Forces at Camp Patrice Vincent in Kuwait on Sunday, May 3, 2015. Three retired air force generals say buying used fighter jets from Australia is a much better plan for Canada than purchasing new Super Hornets from Boeing.
(Then) Chief of the Defence Staff Tom Lawson (centre) walks past two F-18 fighter jets as he talks with fellow members of the Canadian Forces at Camp Patrice Vincent in Kuwait on Sunday, May 3, 2015. Three retired air force generals (including Lawson) say buying used fighter jets from Australia is a much better plan for Canada than purchasing new Super Hornets from Boeing. © THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Act 6

The next phase is expected on or around Septembere 25 when the U.S. Commerce Department tables its findings into the Boeing complaint the Bombardier was selling its CSeries jets at unfairly low prices due to federal and Quebec provincial subsidies.

The Super Hornets are built in Missouri and in a recent phone call to the Governor there, Canada’s Prime Minister pointed out that Boeing itself receives billions of dollars in government subsidies.

Boeing, the Canadian government, and Missouri are all trading figures on how much each depends on the other in terms of jobs and economic benefits and trying to outdo each other on who would lose more in a dispute.

(Note: various reports indicate Canada was looking at Australian Hornets while others say Super Hornets- a somewhat different plane. Australian Hornets would seem to be the likely subject given their similarity to the CF18 A/B’s)

Additional information-sources

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2 comments on “Trade wars and fighter jets
  1. Francis says:

    I find it funny how Boeing is saying that it’s trying to prevent a future competitor from getting up and running (isn’t free market competition what the US is all about?) and that THIS SAME Boeing who in 1992 sold a company it owned de Havilland Canada maker of regional jets to Bombardier.

  2. Victor Craft says:

    Given the environment fighter aircraft perform in, i.e. high G manoeuvres, high airframe hours and cycles, it would seem imprudent to purchase an aircraft that while similar in design, is not the same as the CF-18. Additionally, they were delivered to the RAAF at the same time as CF-18’s were being delivered to Canada. How does buying a used car the same age and mileage as the one you want to replace make any sense? Another thought is that if Boeing is going to play trade war with Canada, does is make sense to jeopardize the ability to get spares and support from that manufacturer? Perhaps it is time to revisit the idea of a new Arrow or some other platform that is indigenous to Canada. It would spark the industry and might even find overseas buyers.