Australia offers Canada its used fighter jets

The first steps of the deal came in an Australian letter that arrived in Canada a mere day after relations with Boeing began to show signs of weakness.

F-18 Australia Jet
The Australian F-18 jets are not as advanced as the Boeing Super Hornets but require less training and maintenance costs. Photo: Skeeze, Pixabay

The day following Boeing’s formal trade complaint against Montreal’s Bombardier, Australian officials were ready and waiting to offer the Canadian government a deal on old jet fighters.

Via the Australian defence attaché in Ottawa a letter was sent to the Canadian government that requested an “expression of interest” for the order of surplus F-18 fighter jets. This information was revealed when a written response was tabled in the Canadian House of Commons after a question was posed by Opposition Conservatives.

The Australian letter arrived shortly after the US aerospace giant Boeing filed a controversial trade complain against Canada’s domestic plane manufacturer Bombardier. These events occurred in April 2017 and documents have only now been revealed.

Until the incendiary trade complaint was made it seemed the Canadian government was prepared to buy 18 brand new Super Hornet fighter jets from Boeing.

The Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan evaded questions regarding whether or not an official decision had been made to abandon the Boeing deal in favour of Australia’s offer.  Mr Sajjan failed to confirm a report by news agencies that an announcement greenlighting the Australian deal would be announced.

These recently revealed details about a deal with Australia have had implications in Canada’s internal politics as questions about Canadian Liberal talking points are raised.  Since the election of the Trudeau government there has been a promise to consider all options in supporting the Canadian air force with necessary fighters.

The documents tabled show that there is no doubt that the negotiations for a deal with Australia did not begin until after the Boeing deal – worth $6.3 billion – began to show signs of falling through.

The whole situation raises questions about Boeing’s future military sales in Canada. Boeing has stated that its commercial and defence contracts in Canada provide for more than 17,000 jobs.

The Trudeau government said in 2016 that it wanted the Boeing jets to fill the gap until it could make plans for a more permanent fleet of jets to replace the older CF-18 fighters.

The relationship with Boeing began to fall apart after the now infamous trade complaint was issued and the Canadian government criticised Boeing for not acting as a “trusted partner”.  At this point it is suspected that the Canadian government began considering the Australian deal.

Officials have said some of the Australian jets would likely be scrapped for spare parts. The purchase of the Australian jets would mean no need to spend extra money training pilots or a new supply chain as the jets were similar to what Canada has already been using.