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Monday, May 16, 2016

Window Slowly Closing on Availability of Super-Hornet

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch

The Liberals promised that if elected they would begin an immediate competition to purchase a replacement aircraft for the CF-18 fighter jet.

Public Services and Procurement Canada has created a new office to oversee that purchase. But there hasn’t been a lot of movement on the file. Instead, work is proceeding on the modernization program to keep the CF-18s flying until 2025.

Boeing’s Super Hornet is seen as a top contender if and when the Canadian government actually begins the process to replace the CF-18.

But with the Canadian procurement system notoriously slow, can Boeing hold out the years (potentially) it will take before Canada is ready to award a contract? The issue, according to defence analysts, is the lack of new orders for Super Hornets and whether Boeing can keep its production line going until Canada is ready to purchase a new fighter.

As it searches for more customers, the company has slowed Super Hornet production to just two aircraft per month in hopes additional orders will extend production into the 2020s, reports my former Defense News colleague Marcus Weisgerber (Marcus is now global business editor at Defense One).
Boeing Super-Hornet Assembly plant, 2008. Boeing is currently just producing 2 aircraft per month. Without new orders, Boeing plans to end production in 2018. Something Canada needs to consider when choosing a new fighter; the availability of spare parts. (Photo: Boeing) 
The U.S. has already purchased more Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers (the electronic attack versions of the Super Hornet) for the U.S Navy.

But without new orders, Super Hornet and Growler production would end in 2018, Dan Gillian, the Boeing vice president who oversees both aircraft, told Weisgerber.

There are potential orders in the wings. Kuwait wants to buy 28 aircraft but the Obama administration has yet to approve the deal. The U.S. Navy wants at least 30 more Super Hornets but so far money has been made available for only two.

Boeing sees the Kuwait deal as a key bridge to keeping the Super Hornet line open and potentially receiving an order from Canada, noted Weisgerber.