OTTAWA -- Canada has taken delivery of the first two second-hand F/A-18 hornets purchased from Australia. The two F/A-18As were flown to Cold Lake, Alberta, on February 17 after taking part in Exercise Red Flag in the United States.
Canada finalized a deal for 25 used aircraft last month, of which 18 will be integrated into the existing CF-18 fleet (Canada's designation for the F/A-18). The other seven aircraft will be used for spare parts and testing. The aircraft are expected to begin operations with the Canadian Forces this summer. The deal included a mix of A and B variants. The aircraft are intended to bolster the current fighter fleet to fill a capability gap until a CF-18 replacement is fielded.
Deliveries will continue over the next three years, with the final aircraft scheduled for delivery by the end of 2021.
The Australian jets are around the same age as the CF-18s, and will undergo the same upgrade planned for the CF-18 fleet. The modernization program will keep the aircraft flying until at least 2030. Upgrades include some new flight controls, structural and avionics improvements, a software upgrade.
At one point, Canada was preparing to buy new Super Hornets from Boeing to meet its interim fighter requirement, but the deal fell through over an unrelated trade dispute surrounding Bombardier's CSeries commercial aircraft.
Meanwhile, Canada's search for a replacement for the CF-18 continues. Ottawa plans to buy 88 aircraft, with deliveries starting in 2025. The final aircraft would be delivered in 2031 or 2032. Possible contenders include the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35, and Saab Gripen. Dassault has pulled its Rafale fighter out of the competition. A draft Request for Proposals was released in October 2018, and a formal solicitation is expected in spring 2019.