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On 15 June 2020 the US State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Canada of fifty (50) Sidewinder AIM-9X Block II Tactical missiles, thirty-eight (38) APG-79(V)4 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar units; and related equipment for an estimated cost of $862.3 million t to integrate the systems listed into the F/A-18A airframe. This sale will provide Canada a 2-squadron bridge of enhanced F/A-18A aircraft to continue meeting NORAD and NATO commitments while it gradually introduces new advanced aircraft via the Future Fighter Capability Program between 2025 and 2035.

Canada operated a fleet of CF-18 Hornet fighter jets purchased in the 1980s with an original life expectancy until 2003, since extended to between 2017 and 2020 after a modernization program in early 2000. National Defence has determined that a suitable replacement for the CF-18 is required, or it will lose its ability to carry out domestic and international missions mandated by the Government of Canada.

In March 1977 the Canadian Cabinet approved acquisition of a new fighter aircraft to replace Canada’s aging F-lOls, CF-1045, and CF-Ss. The Canadians were looking for 130-150 aircraft to serve long-range, high-altitude intercept missions in Canada as well as low-level air-to-air and air-to-ground missions in Europe, as part of Canadian NATO forces. Estimated at over $2 billion dollars, the fighter procurement program (known as NFP — New Fighter Program) was the largest in Canadian history.

In September 1977, the Canadian Government issued a RFP with bids due by February, 1978. Bids were submitted by the Grumman Corporation for the F-14, MDC for the F-15, GD for the F-16, Panavia for the Tornado, and MDC/Northrop for the FA-18. Dassault-Brequet, the French manufacturer of the Mirage, unexpectedly did not submit a bid. All of the competitors appeared to meet general Canadian requirements.

In late 1978, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 and the General Dynamics F-16 were chosen as finalists. Although a favorite of the Canadian military, the McDonnell Douglas F-15 was ruled out because it was too expensive. Similarly, the Grumman F-14 and the Panavia Tornado were not selected as finalists because of their high costs.

At that time, the Canadian defense budget would allow procurement of 127 PIA-18s at $17.7 million per aircraft, or 142 F-l6s at $10.8 million per aircraft. In addition to lower per unit costs, the F-16 had the advantage of being common with NATO forces, which purchased the F-16 in 1975. However, some in Canada believed that the F-16 was not suitable for Canadian air defense due to a limited range and radar capability. Moreover, the F/A18 was expected to have a lower attrition rate because of its dual engines, partially compensating for its high per unit price.

In April 1980, the Canadian government selected the F/A-18 over the F-16, contracting for 138 aircraft (113 single seat, 25 two-seat trainers). The planes, designated the CF-l8, cost the Canadians approximately $2.8 billion dollars (1989 US$). The U.S. Government agreed to waive the Research and Development (R&D) recoupment charges, a total of $880,000 per aircraft. In explaining their choice, the Canadians cited the importance of two engines for safety reasons, and the belief that the F/A-18s spacious airframe would allow room for future systems growth. The sale of F/A-l8s to Canada constituted the fust major export sale for this aircraft, and established it as a major contender in the international fighter aircraft market.

For years, Canada and the US shared special arrangements concerning defense cooperation. The Defense Development and Production Sharing Agreements (DD/PSA), signed by the US and Canada in 1956 and 1963, essentially pooled the economic resources of the two countries to form a common North American defense industrial base. At the root of these arrangements was Canada’s decision not to pursue development of its own weapons systems, but to rely on the U.S. and its vastly larger defense base.

The Canadian Department of Industry, Science, and Technology is responsible for pursuing industrial development opportunities which arise in the course of major govemment purchases (those over C$2 million). The request is usually for 100 percent offset. Depending on the intensity of the competition among the various bidders, this figure can be higher or lower. Major Crown Projects (those in excess of C$100 million) are subject to strict management procedures and must endure more intensive and formalized processes of review, including regular industrial benefit achievement reports to the Canadian Government.

Like some other nations that require offsets, Canada placed much of its emphasis on obtaining high technology. Provisions on technology transfer were not formally published, but rather implied by the types of offsets authorized by the Canadian government. Much of the government’s offset goals related to industrial and regional development including technology development, investment in research and development, development of Canadian design capability, promotion of competitive second source suppliers, and a regionally equitable distribution of benefits. To provide opportunities for Canadian industry, the government pursues contracts that stress coproduction or licensed production rather than “off-the-shelf” purchases.

Even at the early stages of the NFP [New Fighter Program], offset proposals played an important role in the bidding process, and offsets were sought in the RFP [Request for Proposal]. The extremely competitive nature of the procurement put Canada in an excellent position to obtain substantial industrial benefit proposals. As stated in the Canadian RFP for the CF-lS, the basic objective of the Canadian Government was to achieve a mix of offsets through the NFP that would benefit a broad section of the Canadian economy.

MDC’s winning offset proposal was valued at $2.7 billion Canadian dollars, or about 110 percent of the value of the CF-18 aircraft production received by McAir, and is worth an estimated 24,000 jobs for Canadian industry. The offsets are to be provided over a 15-year period, which began in April, 1980. According to the offset agreement, 60 percent of the offsets are to be in the aerospace and electronics sectors, at least 10 percent of which must be in “high technology and advanced programs.” Tourism is included, but cannot exceed 10 percent of the offsets.

A major percentage of the offsets is accounted for by Canadian participation in the production of MDC's commercial and defense aircraft products. Canadian firms, most significantly McDonnell Douglas Canada, produce components for CF-18, F/A-18, MD-80, DC-10, KC-10, and MD-ll aircraft.

The original estimated life expectancy of the CF-18 was 2003. When the manufacturer initially set the estimated life expectancy of the CF-18 fleet at 2003, this estimate represented a service life of 20 years or a structural fatigue safe life of 6,000 hours. A series of actions, starting only a few years after Canada’s CF-18 went into service, led to the extension of the CF-18 Hornet’s estimated life expectancy to 2020. That new estimated life expectancy represented a service life of 38 years, almost twice the initial estimate.

In 1997, the CF-18 was certified to use precision-guided munitions, which are typically employed from higher altitudes. As a result, low-level flying and low-level flight training were no longer considered necessary. That type of flying, historically done by Canadian ground-attack fighter aircraft, demanded intense manoeuvring, frequently in turbulent conditions, which increased the strain on aircraft loaded with weapons. Not surprisingly, the cessation of low-level flying reduced the fatigue usage on the aircraft, thereby saving structural life of the fleet.

The CF-18s went through a decade-long $1.8-billion upgrade to their weapons systems and sensors, starting in the early 2000s. It was meant to replace analog electronics with modern digital systems, particularly targeting pods for precision guided bombs.

In September 2010 the Government extended its Systems Engineering Support Contract (SESC) for the CF-18 Primary Air Vehicle (PAV) to L-3 Communications MAS of Mirabel, Quebec until at least 2017. This seven-year contract extension is valued at $467 million, which sustains approximately 500 jobs annually. The contract extension also includes three additional one-year extension options, valued in total at $86 million, which would bring the in-service support contract to the end of the fleet’s estimated service life of 2020. The CF-18 will remain in service as Canada’s front-line tactical fighter aircraft until at least the 2017 timeframe, when Canada’s next generation fighter capability, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, becomes operational.

Extending the estimated life expectancy of the CF-18 to 2025 was assessed as a low-risk option in terms of cost, schedule and technical factors and as moderate risk in terms of operational factors. A 2025 extension mirrors the US Navy and Marine Corps’ planned withdrawal date for their F/A-18 fleet. A CF-18 estimated life expectancy extension to 2030 would cost more and would be technically challenging. An extension of this magnitude has never been done before by any F-18 user nation.

Flying the CF-18 past the current estimated life expectancy of 2020 will impose additional costs on the Department. Total rough order of magnitude incremental costs (costs over and above planned investments to continue operating the CF-18 fleet until 2020) associated with an estimated life Expectancy extension decision amount to approximately $400 million for an Estimated Life Expectancy of 2025. Rough order of magnitude incremental costs for an Estimated Life Expectancy of 2030 are just over $1.5 billion and are primarily due to the requirement for a new structural life extension program needed to enable the CF-18 to be flown beyond its current safe life.

Canada’s CF-18 fleet is a tangible example of the Government’s commitment to the defence of the continent. Since 1958, Canadian Armed Forces aircraft have participated in the collective aerospace defence of North America through the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command agreement. As the only Canadian aircraft assigned to that role, CF-18s are on continuous alert to respond to potential aerial threats to the safety of Canadians and the security of Canada and the continent.

Together with the United States Air Force, Canada’s CF-18s have been ready, on a daily and hourly basis, to undertake any missions to respond to potential threats to North America. In response to the 9/11 attacks, CF-18s conducted 24/7 airborne combat air patrol over vital Canadian points for a significant amount of time. Under NORAD, the Canadian fighter force conducts approximately 200 missions against potential threats each year. CF-18s have been deployed numerous times in response to activities by unwanted or unidentified aircraft approaching Canada’s far north.

Canada sent 24 CF-18s to participate in the American-led Desert Shield and Desert Storm campaigns in 1990-91. The fleet participated in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Middle East, flying over 5,700 hours in approximately 2,700 sorties. The CF-18s were deployed twice in response to ongoing violence in the former Yugoslavia between 1997 and 2000. The fleet conducted air patrols in support of NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina and participated in the 1999 air campaign over Kosovo. In 1999, 18 CF-18s took part in the Kosovo campaign. The CF-18s conducted 10% of the NATO missions during this campaign. They did so despite being a much smaller percentage of the total force. CF-18s were deployed in 2011 to southern Italy to participate in Operation Mobile / Operation Unified Protector, a multinational response to the crisis in Libya. In 2011, eight CF-18s flew missions over Libya with NATO. The CF-18 was the only Canadian Armed Forces asset able to help enforce the no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians.

On 7 October 2014 Canada committed up to six CF-18 fighter aircraft under "Operation Impact" to participate in air strikes against ISIL along with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and likely others. Since early 2014, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – or ISIL – has been carrying out a campaign of unspeakable atrocities against innocent children, women and men, as well as religious minorities in Iraq. Specifically, it has tortured and beheaded people, raped and sold women into slavery, slaughtered minorities and kidnapped innocent victims whose only crime was to have a different ideology than ISIL.

As of 3 November 2015, Air Task Force-Iraq conducted 1700 sorties: CF-188 Hornet fighters conducted 1089 sorties; CC-150T Polaris aerial refueller conducted 296 sorties, delivering some 17,606,000 pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft; and CP-140 Aurora aircraft conducted 314 reconnaissance missions.

Four CF-18s took part in air policing missions over the Baltic states as part of NATO's efforts to reassure eastern European allies rattled by Russia's annexation of Crimea and interference in Ukraine.

On September 30, 2014 the Harper government said it would extend the life of its aging fleet of CF-18 fighters. The jets are an important component of Canada's defence and will be updated to keep them flying for another decade, said Johanna Quinney, a spokeswoman for Defence Minister Rob Nicholson. "We remain committed to ensuring that our brave men and women in uniform have the equipment that they need to do the work that is asked of them," Quinney said in an emailed statement.

"As a result, we will be extending the life of our CF-18 fleet to 2025 to ensure that Canada has a multi-role, fighter jet capability throughout the next decade. The Royal Canadian Air Force needs a fighter strike capability, and our current fleet of CF-18s is fully capable of fulfilling a variety of mission requirements," such as patrol and air-to-air interception.

In October 2015 newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to bring home fighter jets from Syria and Iraq. He said he spoke with US President Barack Obama about Canada’s efforts to stop the Islamic State. Trudeau wanted to make sure the removal is done in “an orderly fashion.” He said he agrees with Canada participating in the training of Iraqi ground troops to lead the fight against ISIL on the ground. That's what Canadian special forces were currently doing.

Canada initially purchased 138 CF-18s. By 2014 the air force had 77 CF-18s still flying. The others were lost in crashes or had been retired.

A new Liberal government was elected, partly because of the controversy over the F-35 program 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.

The Government of Canada continued to explore the various potential options to supplement the CF-18 fleet. One of those options involves the purchase of Super Hornet aircraft from the United States. Discussions were ongoing with the United States (U.S.) government to determine if it can provide an interim solution at a cost, schedule and level of capability that are acceptable to Canada. If the purchase proceeds, Super Hornet aircraft and associated in-service support would be procured through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, which allows the purchase of defence articles controlled by the U.S. under the Arms Export Control Act.

On March 13, 2017, Canada submitted a letter of request to the U.S. government as part of the process. The letter outlines Canada's requirements for the interim aircraft and associated in-service support.

On 12 Sepember 2017 the US State Department made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Canada of ten (10) F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft, with F414-GE-400 engines; eight (8) F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft, with F414-GE-400 engines; eight (8) F414-GE-400 engine spares; twenty (20) AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars; twenty (20) M61A2 20MM gun systems; twenty-eight (28) AN/ALR-67(V)3 Electronic Warfare Countermeasures Receiving Sets; fifteen (15) AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods; twenty (20) Multifunctional Information Distribution Systems–Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS-JTRS); other technical assistance and support equipment; and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated total case value is $5.23 billion.

The proposed sale of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft will improve Canada’s capability to meet current and future warfare threats and provide greater security for its critical infrastructure. Canada will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.

In April 2017, Boeing-which also makes passenger jets, launched a trade complaint against Canada’s Bombardier jetmaker claiming unfair competition practices due to Canadian government subsidies. 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”.

In parallel to the ongoing discussions with the US government, Canada was exploring other options for supplementing the current CF-18 fleet and addressing the capability gap. In light of Australia notifying Allies about their intent to dispose of F-18s, Canada visited with the Australians to inquire about the state of their equipment and spare parts.

The Canadian government scrapped prior plans to buy 18 Boeing jets as a stopgap measure while the country runs its competition for the 88 replacement jets. Instead Ottawa said 12 December 2017 it will now buy a second-hand fleet of 18 Australian F-18s, the same planes Canada already operates.

Canada launched a much anticipated process to replace its ageing fleet of CF-18 Hornet fighter jets 13 December 2017, announcing plans to purchase 88 advanced military aircraft to bring fresh wind to the Royal Canadian Air Force — for an estimated 15-19 billion Canadian dollars ($11.6-14.7 billion, €9.9-12.6 billion).

At the same time the government of Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Boeing had little chance of winning the large contract unless it dropped a trade challenge against Canadian plane maker Bombardier over its C-Series regional passenger jet, which resulted in a nearly 300-per-cent duty on the company's newest passenger planes.

Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough told reporters in Ottawa that the Liberal government wants to maximize the economic impact of the multi-billion dollar deal with bidders investing in the Canadian aerospace industry. The evaluation of bids will also include an assessment of bidders' impact on Canada's economic interests, she said. "This new assessment is an incentive for bidders to contribute positively to Canada's economy."

Dan Le Bouthillier of the Department of National Defence said 21 September 2018 negotiations with Australia over the sale of the 25 used fighter jets is on-going. “Should all negotiations and approvals move forward as planned, aircraft would start arriving in Canada in 2019, and the project remains on track to achieve this milestone,” he said. “The delivery plan, including mode of delivery, will be finalized once negotiations are complete and the aircraft being purchased are selected.”

The US government approved Canada’s purchase of used F-18 fighter jets from Australia, paving the way for the deal to be completed by the end of 2018. The sign-off from the Americans was needed because the aircraft were built in the U.S. with U.S. technology.

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Page last modified: 06-05-2021 17:06:29 ZULU