Canada and Australia reached a final agreement on Canada’s purchase of 25 used F/A-18 Hornets in November but news of the formal deal didn’t leak out until last week. The first planes should be added to the RCAF inventory in the spring of 2019 and the rest will follow through the year. Only 18 will join squadrons in Cold Lake and Bagotville. The other seven will be used for testing and spare parts. The 18 flying aircraft will bring the total number of flyable fighters to about 94, although at any one time a dozen or more are down for maintenance.
The used airplane purchase is a stopgap measure while the government launches yet another effort to replace the Hornet fleet entirely. There are potentially five contenders to replace the F/A-18s but politics and/or capability gaps afflict every one of them. Canada remains a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter program which is developing the F-35 and under the original deal was to have received its first F-35s in 2018. But in the 2015 federal election, then-future Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to cancel the deal. The F-35 was allowed to enter the latest competition for the fighter contract. Other contenders may be the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Saab Gripen and Airbus Typhoon. Dassault pulled its Rafale fighter out of the competition in November.