Boeing’s Super Hornet Gets Boost as Canada Plans to Buy 18

  • Country to remain in Lockheed’s Joint Strike Fighter program
  • Government also announces open bid for permanent jet fleet

Boeing Co.’s aging Super Hornet fighter is getting a lift after Canada said it planned to purchase 18 as a stopgap measure while the government begins a five-year bidding process for new jets to modernize its fleet.

The country will enter negotiations with Boeing to “immediately explore” the acquisition of the jets, and a separate competition will be held to replace the country’s fleet of CF-18 fighters, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan and two of his cabinet colleagues said Tuesday, without giving a cost estimate for either project.

The announcement marks a retreat for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who campaigned last year on abandoning Canada’s plans to buy Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 jets. The company will instead now be able to bid. Meanwhile, Canada’s planned interim order bolsters Boeing’s St. Louis manufacturing center, where the company churns out Super Hornets and F-15 fighter jets.

Canada’s fleet of CF-18s is down to 77 aircraft from 138 three decades ago and the country risks not being able to meet its global military commitments, Sajjan said.

“The interim fleet provides the most effective way forward to help ensure Canada remains a credible and dependable ally,” Sajjan said in a statement. He told reporters the country would continue its membership in Lockheed’s Joint Strike Fighter program.

Canada has also previously considered Saab AB’s Gripen, Dassault Aviation SA’s Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon, produced by a consortium including BAE Systems Plc, Airbus Group SE and Alenia Aermacchi SpA.

Too Early

It’s too early to estimate the cost of the Super Hornets, Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote said.

“We have a sense of what the cost will be, but we have to enter into negotiations with Boeing," Foote told reporters. “I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of our discussions with Boeing. Clearly they have a plane that is of interest to us.”

In an e-mailed statement, Boeing said it’s “honored” to supply Canada with “the only multi-role fighter aircraft that can fulfill its immediate needs for sovereign and North American defense.” All Super Hornets have been delivered on cost and on schedule, Boeing added.

While “disappointed” with Canada’s decision, Lockheed said in an e-mailed statement it remains “confident the F-35 is the best solution to meet Canada’s operational requirements at the most affordable price. The F-35 is combat ready and available today to meet Canada’s needs for the next 40 years.”

Representatives for Dassault, Saab and Eurofighter couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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