Canada still seems to be confused on the topic of what should replace its CF-18 fighter fleet.
There is a lot of talk about 65 aircraft not being enough to meet its requirements for home defence and deployment needs.
In order to do this properly one has to decide if the F-35 will make it into service. If so, training can be done in the United States and thus free more airframes for operational taskings. If not then Canada will either have to increase their final number of CF-18 replacement aircraft or just deal with the shortfall.
If the F-35 does not become the way forward, Canada needs to consider the following for “combat-coded” fighter aircraft.
1. How many will be dedicated to training?
2. What percentage will be going through periodic maintenance?
3. How many aircraft will be pulled for overseas deployments?
4. When there are overseas deployments will there be enough combat-coded aircraft to perform home defence?
Since the Canadian DND never properly looked at the Super Hornet let us look at some of the considerations of this aircraft as a CF-18 replacement.
1. Two engines
2. Two air-crew (if required; for instance CAS support of ground troops)
3. Better procurement and operating cost compared to an F-35.
4. Suitable home industry workshare.
5. Short pilot upgrade training between the CF-18 and Super Hornet (for instance, the Australian example).
6. It is an off-the-shelf and proven joint weapons platform with coalition partners including excellent network and communications gear.
7. Adding to that, is part of a joint team with the U.S. Navy and Australia in the area of platform knowledge growth.
8. As the upgrade process happens, the Super Hornet provides excellent enhancement of the C-18 with the ability to provide increased threat and mission situational awareness and other advantages such as buddy-tanking when needed.
9. Excellent capability against peer or legacy threats.
Here is an example of how the Canadians could deploy to support a joint coalition with the Super Hornet.
8x Super Hornets, Accessories to include, HACTS, 10 ATFLIR, 3 SHARP recon pods, 3 buddy-refuel kits. Weapons could include AMRAAM, AIM-9X, JSOW, Laser-JDAM, HART-JDAM, SLAM-ER and Harpoon.
1. Deployment to the Philippines as a barcap, sea-control and ISR and strike capability in response to increased tension in the Spratly Islands.
2. Deployment to Japan as a barcap, sea-control and ISR and strike capability in response to increased tension with North Korea.
3. Deployment to Italy as a barcap, sea-control and ISR and strike capability in response to increased tension in the in the Balkans.
4. Deployment to Kuwait as a barcap, sea-control and ISR and strike capability in response to increased tension with Iran.
The above considerations can be used to look at other kinds of aircraft that may be suitable as a CF-18 replacement.
I do not think that the CF-18 controversy is over. Simply because Canada's political decision makers have been fed so much bad information on the topic.