F-35 vs Super Hornet – Canada

Canada will be phasing out their CF-18 Hornets some time around 2017-18.

While Canada is a JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) partner nation, does that mean that they will get the F-35 to replace their old jets? Maybe. Maybe not.

Some want a decision on this in the next 12 months. Also the number of aircraft that Canada is looking at purchasing is around 65; not the original 80.

One of the concerns? Cost. No one knows what an F-35 commitment will cost Canada other than the usual happy-face sales hype.

The supposed low price of the F-35 in some JSF partner nation multi-year sale for early buyers that LM was trying to generate interest in is long dead with events like the Dutch debacle earlier in the year. Also there is the hype being PowerPointed as fact that a JSF partner nation will get at least $5B in home industry benefit if they go with the LM jet. This has been interpreted as a certainty by some gullible sheep as opposed to the reality of “opportunity” for that kind of home work share.

UAVs have been floated as a replacement. I have seen the public consumption paper on the UAV thing as a replacement for the legacy Hornets and it isn’t based on much reality if someone at least wants the basic skill of air sovereignty patrols.

And then there is Boeing-

But in May, Lockheed Martin’s competitors were in Ottawa promoting their fighter planes, which they say are cheaper.

“We believe we are much less expensive than the JSF and we have industrial benefits for Canadian industry available right now,” said Boeing official Glenn Erutti.

Boeing is trying to interest Canada in an advanced F-18 aircraft called the Super Hornet. BAE Systems and Saab Aerospace were also interested in offering aircraft to Canada.

Industry representatives are divided over the JSF — some say the program will provide major benefits for Canada’s aerospace industry but others note only a limited number of companies will see work from that contract and better benefits might be gained from a competition to replace the CF-18s.

There has also been some concern among nations, including Canada, about the final price of the JSF. Last year, Lockheed Martin announced it was looking at offering Canada and other nations interested in the aircraft a deal that would see the price of each plane ordered set at around $50 million in return for a commitment to purchase by a certain time.

Defence Department spokeswoman Annie Arcand said no decision has been made by the government on the choice of a next generation fighter aircraft or on the procurement approach for that.

The really big thing to remember is Canada isn’t a big spender on Defense.


11 thoughts on “F-35 vs Super Hornet – Canada

  1. The Gripen NG’s with the new enhanced AESA would be a good fit for Canada due to cost, reliability, and compatibility with a wide array of NATO/US weapons. The political reality of course is that this will never happen, but its a nice thought.

  2. I’m sorry to those who disagree, but this is a very fair and hard-hitting post by Eric.

    So Canada wants to ‘phase-out’ CF-18s by 2017, eh?

    So Canada will want a ‘phased-in’ replacement flying as FOC, and not mere IOC (or merely delivered status), but FOC, starting in 2017 at the latest?

    Maybe 2020 FOC would do just as well? Why stress it.

    If canada is going ‘alternative’… may I suggest a couple or three Lear Jet mini-AWACS platforms, coupled w/ look-down radar/IRST equipped Aerostats armed with maybe combo of Meteor Intercept missiles and NCADE for anti-cruise missile capability. USAF rotated F-15C/D and F-22 could provide supplemental Air-sovereignty during regular joint-exercises?

    A phase I to such an alternative plan, could include Leased MEADS AD battery with said AWACS starting around 2014-15, until delivery of said aerostat IADS ships?

    If canada decides to go with tactical aircraft as a replacement, I would highly support them seeking a Block III Super Hornet (delivery by 2016 and I’m sure BA will do the needed work), or go in on the Silent-Eagle (delivery by around 2015). Apparently, Boeing/BA is expecting to go ahead with SE development in partnership deal with an undisclosed govt., so this option seems viable IMHO.

    A ‘possibly-Leased’ Silent Eagle with Meteor-integration, IRST, DIRCM and EW, by 2015-2016 entry, would be a legit long-term bird – given the usual upgrades over the years.

  3. The Silent Eagle would be an interesting choice for Canada and the lease option that geogen mentioned is a possibility. Another fighter option might the Rafale. It has the range and speed to be effective for air sovereignty missions, and lease option might also be possible with Canada’s close relationship with France. Getting back to the Gripen NG, an interesting combo would be purchasing/leasing the Erieye AEW&C as part of an air defense package with the Gripen.


  4. Its funny that Gripen NG never is seen as a serious option for countries like Australia and Canada and other large countries. If one can accept the range and performance of the Super Bug and the fact that the F-35 uses one engine, then there is no reason to dismiss the Gripen NG.

  5. Not to be rude but for homeland defence Canada can ride on the back of the US, so why have a big spend on expensive aircraft. In reallity they only have to demonstrate support for big brother, funny that’s much like the rest of us, the only real concern is if big brother gets it wrong then like the rest of us they’d better learn to fend for themselves.
    Something about the tyranny of distance amd once removed twice forgotten keeps running around in my antipodean head.

  6. Super Hornet is a possibility, but I’d rule out Rafale or Gripen from the start. Canada’s military values interoperability with the US, so the next-gen fighter is almost certainly going to be an American product. Canada’s also in no rush to upgrade the fighter force right now. The priority has been on equipment to support ground forces in Afghanistan: new armored vehicles, new transport planes, new helicopters. The army’s been bearing the brunt of recent deployments, and missed out on an entire modernization cycle in the ’80s. That was followed by cutbacks across the board in the ’90s for the Forces, so the priority makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, providing equipment to the most-deployed service becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy: the fighter force won’t be upgraded because it’s not deployed, but one of the reasons it isn’t deployed is because it isn’t sufficiently upgraded to keep up with other coalition air forces…

  7. Canada values twin engines immensely, due to the requirement of flying long distances over arctic tundra and icy seas. I won’t be shocked to see them buy JSF’s, but I imagine there’s pressure to get a twin-engined solution instead. Of course, if LockMart sweet talks them enough (or spreads around enough cash) they might ignore the safety considerations.

  8. Like the rest of the lemmings they’ll fall into line, the future of the free world is at risk if they don’t,NOT!
    Seriously hope that the F35 is everything and more than the LockMart spin

  9. I agree with a lot of your views and it seems Canada would like to stay close to the US, I think they would benefit from an F/A-18E/F fleet due to the crossover support from ‘classic’ Hornets, (Australia is receiving this support from the US Navy for it’s 24 F’s). Aussie fly boys were a little worried with the decision to purchase the Rhino’s given it’s less than spectacular specs compared to the new Flankers in our region. However for the US Navy to fill it’s carriers with E/F’s at such an early stage one asks the question if the US knew the F-35 was still 15-20 years down the track?
    Would Canada benefit from new Hornets and be better off waiting till the 5th gen stealth threat is well and truley upon us? Canada is in a position where the US would happily deploy F-22’s to the region if the threat was necessary. America can see they don’t require anymore Raptors due to the minimal threat in terms of all out war, if we were still in the cold war style era there is no way the US would have cut production.
    Australia was also stern about a twin engined aircraft due to our unique large island, yet we appear to be locked in to purchase 65-100 F-35’s even though the US may scrap our preferred engine manufacturer. This leads Australians to believe that we still fall into line about what the US thinks is best for Australia…

  10. I have a number of reservations concerning adopting the F-35 for Canadian defense requirements. What concerns me the most is the fact that, traditionally, the requirement for twin engine fighters has been omitted in the case of the F-35. The resurgence of Russian Bear Foxtrots appearing over the polar cap forces our fighters to travel vast distances to intercept these incursions. The failure of one engine on existing Hornets will be worrisome for the pilot, as he/she hobbles back to home plate. Should the engine fail on an F-35, you can scratch one plane, and in the worst circumstances, considering the harsh conditions of the vast Canadian Tundra, scratch one pilot. These odds are to costly for families of pilots, and indeed the Canadian tax payer. The F/A-18E/F series are again the most viable, modern airframe for Canadian defense requirements, and continued NATO participation requirements. Albeit, a 20% larger airframe, the Super Hornet is very much the same aircraft Canadian pilots have been flying since the mid ‘80s, with the latest Avionics suites available. I’m no economist, but just playing with some facts and figures, the Canadian Govt. at per unit cost, could procure some 90 F/A-18E/F aircraft for approx. 5.5 Billion in USD. I’d be curious to know the service life costs and weapons deployment costs for these airframes over the 30+ year life span would be.

  11. I am doing a report on single vs twin engine fighter aircraft. If you have some data/experience you would like to share please email me before 30 Jun 2010. editor (art) 8ak.in

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