Ottawa was planning to buy 18 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets but has elected instead to buy used F-18s from the Australian government, some of which will be cannibalized for spare parts for the Canadian military's existing stock, Reuters said.
Government and industry sources said the Australia deal will be announced as early as next week, with the Royal Canadian Air Force needing 28 to 30 used F/A-18 fighter jets to meet its worldwide commitments.
Prompted by Boeing Co.'s complaint, Commerce in late September declared that a 2016 sale of 75 Bombardier C-Series jets to Delta violated fair-market pricing standards, and should incur a 219% trade duty on future sales of the aircraft.
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Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has said Canada can not meet all of its obligations to the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with its current fleet of CF-18s, arguing new fighter jets are needed before the entire fleet is replaced in the next decade.
If Canada actually decides to buy used Hornets from Australia, they will also have to invest in maintaining the aging planes. According to the U.S. firm, its commercial and defense operations in Canada support more than 17,000 Canadian jobs.
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In buying older Australian Super Hornets, Canada would be buying a cheaper aircraft, not need to retrain its pilots, nor spend money on a new supply chain, one source said.
The move to try to acquire fighter jets from Australia coincides with the USA government's decision, based on a Boeing complaint, to hit Bombardier with nearly 300 per cent duties on its CSeries civilian passenger jet.
Canadian officials participating in the NAFTA talks criticized the Commerce Department's tariff decision, with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland saying Canada "strongly disagrees" with the U.S. probes into its aerospace industry.
The final ruling in the case is expected next year, but the relationship between Boeing and Canada has nosedived since. At the time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his top ministers said Ottawa would not do business with Boeing as long as it was engaged in a dispute with Bombardier.
However, Boeing Defense President and CEO Leanne Caret's reaction might offer observers a hint.