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Canada invests in CF-18 Hornet fighter sustainment

8th March 2024 - 13:44 GMT | by The Shephard News Team in London


A study conducted by the UK think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) last year found that the RCAF’s CF-18 fighter force was facing a “crisis”. (Photo: Candian Department of National Defence)

Canada’s decision to sustain its CF-18 fighter fleet reflected its commitment to modernising air defence capabilities amid challenges highlighted by a critical report commissioned by the Department of National Defence and released last year, casting doubt on its ability to fulfil NATO obligations.

Canada has announced has awarded a CA$211.6 million (US$157.3 million) sustainment contract to Arcfield Canada to support the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) CF-18 fighter jet fleet. The agreement was intended to maintain the fighter’s operational readiness until the country’s ordered F-35s were delivered.

Arcfield Canada will continue to support the CF-18 fleet’s Avionics weapons systems, supply parts as needed and provide end-to-end supply chain services. The contract will also ensure that avionics spare parts will be made available to CF-18 technicians.

The RCAF currently operates nearly 138 CF-18 fighters (Canada’s designation of the F/A-18). The fleet has already received a service life extension through the Hornet Extension Program. The newly awarded contract was for an initial five-year period and five subsequent one-year options.

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The in-service support contract for CF-18 Avionics will come into effect on 1 April this year. If all options are exercised, it will last until the end of March 2034, allowing for potential delays in the F-35 programme.

The sustainment initiative may have stemmed from a report commissioned by Canada’s Department of National Defence last autumn. The scathing study, conducted by the UK think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), found that the RCAF’s CF-18 fighter force was facing a “crisis”.

According to the report, the fighter force experienced low morale, significant departure rates among instructor pilots and a shortage of maintenance technicians, all of which hindered its capacity to fulfil NATO obligations. The situation could potentially endanger the RCAF’s transition to the newly acquired fighters as well, the report stated.

After more than a decade-long hunt, Canada finalised its contract to acquire the Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter aircraft in January 2023. The decision came five years after the country first launched its competition to replace the ageing CF-18 Hornet fleet. Competing against the F-35 was Sweden’s Saab with the Gripen fighter.

As part of the deal, worth C$19 billion (US$15.1 billion) for the procurement, Canada will acquire 88 new jets, as well as sustainment set-up and services for the systems.

The Shephard News Team


The Shephard News Team

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