Canada’s Air Force Rearms

Canada needs new fighter in a more threatening world

By Eribert Loehner in Vancouver

In 1977, Canada entered an extensive procurement process to find a suitable replacement for its aging fleet of military fighter aircraft.

At that time the Royal Canadian Air Force flew a number of obsolescent aircraft types that had similar roles.

Ideally,it’s been argued, a single more-capable aircraft could handle all these roles and would generate savings by streamlining maintenance and pilot training.

The Hornets’ nest in Canada

In 1980, a contract worth $2.4 billion for 128 McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornets was issued. The CF-18 is equivalent to the US Navy F/A-18C & D models.

The Hornet is flown by many other countries including Australia, Finland, Spain, and Switzerland. It is the aircraft used by the US Navy’s famous Blue Angels aerobatic team.

The CF-18 Hornet entered Canadian service in 1982 and was up-graded to keep it competitive with other contemporary fighters.

A CF-188 Hornet from the Canadian Air Task Force Lithuania flies side by side with two Portuguese F16 Fighting Falcons over Lithuania on September 15, 2014 for the NATO Baltic exercise. 

Since then, 43 were sold off and 25 have been lost to crashes and accidents. There have been some pilot deaths too; flying jet fighters is not without risk. On the whole, however, the Hornet has been a safe and very competent aircraft.

Does Canada really need a fleet of fighter jets? Canada is a rather peaceful nation. It is also on friendly terms with its one and only neighbour, the United States.

Why Canada needs a fighter fleet 

But yes, Canada does need a fleet of fighter jets.

Together with the United States, Canada is committed to the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), because just a short jet-flight across the Arctic Ocean is a decidedly less friendly country, Russia.

Russian bombers on patrol during the ‘Cold War’

During the cold war, Soviet patrol bombers would often approach Canada’s arctic airspace just to see what kind of response Canada would send up. Failure to respond would put into question the sovereignty of Canada’s airspace and territory beneath it.

The Soviet aircraft usually stopped just short of Canadian airspace, and the sight of Canadian jet fighters would send them packing. These probing flights virtually stopped during the 1990’s; but, as Vladimir Putin becomes more assertive they are again becoming common.

Canada’s Nato commitment

Canada also is also committed to NATO in keeping Russian aggression against Europe in check.

Some of our CF-18’s are presently based in Latvia to counter in the Baltic States precisely the same type of Russian flights used against northern Canada.

Canada is also a charter member of the United Nations and has often been asked to deploy military aircraft to hotspots throughout the world to keep wars from boiling over.

Yet as good as the CF-18 is, it is getting old and will need to be replaced soon, but with what? What has been done to date? How much is it going to cost? (to be continued)