Lib­er­als to delay jets’ de­liv­ery, sources say

Date for new fight­ers pushed back by 8 years

Ottawa Citizen - - CANADA - LEE BERTHIAUME

OT­TAWA • In­dus­try sources say the Trudeau gov­ern­ment is pre­par­ing to push back the ex­pected de­liv­ery date of a new fighter jet to re­place Canada’s ag­ing CF-18 fleet.

The Lib­er­als said last year that they planned to start re­ceiv­ing new fight­ers in about five years, or around 2021, at which point the 30-yearold CF-18s would start be­ing phased out.

But sev­eral sources say de­fence of­fi­cials don’t ex­pect the first new plane to be de­liv­ered for an­other eight years, which would put the time frame around 2026.

The sources, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the is­sue, would not spec­u­late on why the de­liv­ery sched­ule was be­ing changed.

But the de­ci­sion could have ma­jor fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions if it means hav­ing to sink even more money into the CF-18s than the hun­dreds of mil­lions al­ready set aside to keep them fly­ing into the next decade.

Some are also won­der­ing whether the Lib­er­als, who had promised to launch a for­mal fighter-jet competition be­fore the 2019 elec­tion, now plan to hold off un­til af­ter Cana­di­ans go to the polls.

News of the ex­pected delay comes as the gov­ern­ment is mov­ing ahead on the purchase of used fighter jets from Australia in­stead of brand-new Su­per Hor­nets from Boe­ing to tem­po­rar­ily bol­ster Canada’s CF-18 fleet.

The Lib­er­als had planned to buy 18 Su­per Hor­nets, at an es­ti­mated cost of $6 bil­lion, un­til Boe­ing launched a trade dis­pute against Cana­dian ri­val Bom­bardier.

Australia’s F-18s are al­most cer­tain to be cheaper than Su­per Hor­nets, and eas­ier to in­cor­po­rate into the ex­ist­ing fleet, since they are al­most iden­ti­cal to Canada’s own CF-18s. But the used jets are 30 years old — the same vin­tage as the CF-18s — and will need sig­nif­i­cant up­grades to con­tinue fly­ing into the next decade.

THE DE­CI­SION COULD HAVE MA­JOR FI­NAN­CIAL IM­PLI­CA­TIONS.

The gov­ern­ment is also wrestling with how best to sell Cana­di­ans on the idea of buy­ing used fighter jets af­ter the dis­as­ter that fol­lowed the purchase of sec­ond-hand Bri­tish sub­marines in the 1990s.

Gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try sources say there are con­cerns the de­ci­sion will res­ur­rect mem­o­ries of the four subs Canada bought from the U.K., one of which caught fire while cross­ing the At­lantic, killing a naval of­fi­cer.

The gov­ern­ment has also been forced to sink bil­lions into the ves­sels to ad­dress a mul­ti­tude of tech­ni­cal prob­lems over the years, which has kept them docked more of­ten than they have been at sea.

CANA­DIAN FORCES COM­BAT CAM­ERA / DND FILES

A CF18 Hor­net, seen tak­ing part in Op­er­a­tion Im­pact in Fe­bru­ary 2015. The ag­ing fighter jet is over­due for a re­place­ment.

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