NEWS | Canada to buy 18 New F-18 Super Hornets, Cancels the F-35 Orders
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NEWS | Canada to buy 18 New F-18 Super Hornets, Cancels the F-35 Orders

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Image Attribute: F-18 Super Hornet at Aero India 2011 (8th edition of Aero India)  Source: Wikimedia Commons

Image Attribute: F-18 Super Hornet at Aero India 2011 (8th edition of Aero India) 
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Canada has announced plans to acquire F/A-18E/F Super Hornet multi-role jet fighters. The government wants to secure a substantial number of the jets until it decides on a real replacement for its current fleet CF-18 and to fill the capability gap in years ahead.

The Trudeau administration is concerned about the prospect of replacing the RCAF's aging CF-18 Hornet fleet, having won an election in 2014 promising to cancel the former Conservative government's selection of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

In yesterday's press conference, Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced the Trudeau administration will launch a full-fledged fighter jet replacement program for the entire existing fleet of CF-18s before the end of the end of its term in three or four years. The government also plans to enter into discussions with Boeing immediately to acquire the jets, but he would not say how long it will take, nor how much each jet might cost. 

The previous Canadian Conservative government announced in 2010 that Canada would be buying 65 F-35s, with the first delivery to be made in 2015. However, it was forced to shelve the decision after questions about the program revealed the price of a potential F35 fleet acquisition approached the $40‑billion mark.

In the 1980s, McDonnell Douglas CF/A-18 Hornet (its designation for the Boeing F/A-18A Hornet) was declared the winner of the New Fighter Aircraft competition. The order included 98 single-seat variants and 40 dual-seat variants, for a total of 138 purchased, plus 20 options (which were not exercised). 

Canadian CF-18s flew multiple combat missions over the Persian Gulf, former Yugoslavia, Libya, and most recently over Iraq against the Islamic State.

In 2001, the Incremental Modernization Project (IMP) was initiated. The project was broken into two phases over a period of eight years and was designed to improve air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities, upgrade sensors and the defensive suite, and replace the datalinks and communications systems on board the CF-18 from the old F/A-18A and F/A-18B standard to the current F/A-18C and D standard. Despite modest upgrades, the planes are increasingly outdated.

The idea behind the "Interim Purchase"

Boeing's Super Hornets seem to be the practical replacement for the CF-18 Hornet. Along with it's bigger size, it has a longer range and greater weapons payload than the CF-18. Though it does lack stealth features of the F-35, however, it was designed with "lower probability of intercept" features, that make it more difficult for RADAR detection at enemy's end. 

The newer APG-79 active electronically scanned array radars of these improved Hornets can scan ahead for aerial threats, a capability which older radars on current CF-18 are lacking. With the availability of this technology, Super Hornets could also be paired with older CF-18s for a joint combat or joint patrol roles. 

The jets also has a high level of commonality with older CF-18 Hornets, particularly weapons and the engine, it means Canadian airmen will go through shorter and quicker transition period. Last but not the least, these new jets could also be used as an aerial tanker for CF-18s, extending their range during the missions. 

With reporting by Canadian Defence Ministry Press Release, 
Popular Mechanics, Flight Global, and Youtube