The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is proving to be a contentious issue in Canadian politics. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to withdraw the nation’s commitment to the infamous aircraft, the Canadian Air Force remains committed.
As the two camps continue to spar, however, Canada’s current fleet of CF-18 Hornets isn’t getting any younger.
"Today, we are risk-managing a gap between our NORAD and NATO commitments and the number of fighters available for operations," Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said, during the CANSEC defense trade show last week.
"In the 2020s, we can foresee a growing capability gap, and this I find unacceptable and it’s one thing that we plan to fix."
The solution appears to be Boeing’s Super Hornet. Introduced in 1999, the fighter isn’t exactly cutting edge, but it’s still newer than the CF-18, introduced in 1983. While a final decision is yet to be made, the National Post reports that the Trudeau administration plans to move forward with the purchase.
While the deal may allow Trudeau to stall on an F-35 decision, it could present new complications. Given that the previous administration of Stephen Harper pledged to purchase 63 F-35s, the current government’s refusal could result in a lawsuit from Lockheed Martin.
Purchasing a fleet of Super Hornets would push any possibility of an F-35 deal to at least the late 2020s.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has been riddled with problems throughout its development. Costing over $1 trillion, the F-35 has had issues with software, engines, and even its dogfighting performance.
Last month, Danish lawmakers forced defense minister Peter Christensen to explain the military’s decision to purchase the plane despite its poor performance tests.
"There are always some risks, but we will negotiate the best terms we can and we will do our utmost to clarify details as much as we can before we make the first purchase," he said. "We will look to secure better certainty on costs."