Feds avoiding 'a lot of trouble' by eyeing used Australian jets: former top general
Published Sunday, December 10, 2017 7:00AM EST
OTTAWA – The Trudeau government will be saving themselves "a lot of trouble" if they go ahead with purchasing used jets from Australia, but a full replacement would still be the better bet, says Canada’s former top military general Tom Lawson.
It has been reported that Canada will announce next week that it intends to buy used F-18s from Australia as an interim measure ahead of a future full fleet replacement for Canada's aging CF-18s.
Lawson, who served as chief of the defence staff from 2012 to 2015, said he thinks the feds have "absolutely" made the right move by cancelling the plan to buy brand new Super Hornets instead.
"They’ve saved themselves a lot of trouble to have an orphan fleet of 18 that need new pilots, new technicians, they save the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force] a lot of work," Lawson told Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period.
The Australian jets are expected to be less expensive, and easier to train Canada’s troops on. Though, the planes are 30 years old, the same as Canada’s current CF-18 fleet.
Previously, the government was looking at buying 18 Boeing Super Hornets to fill the gap, but abandoned that plan due to the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. aerospace giant and its Canadian competitor Bombardier.
On Friday, Boeing released a statement about the reports that Canada will go with the Australian fighter jets. Boeing said that regardless of the government’s procurement plans, it has no plans to back off its fight with Bombardier over the C-Series passenger planes.
The former defence chief is a long-time supporter of the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet.
Despite his support for the Australian interim measure over the Super Hornet plan, Lawson still thinks if there was a willingness, the government could just open up the competition for the full fleet replacement, instead of putting its energy into this stop-gap measure.
“There is time, and I think what we would see is there are even ways to accelerate the delivery of those aircraft,” said Lawson. "But, if you want to fill that capability gap, this way, it is a way of doing it."
In November on CTV’s Question Period, Public Services and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough said that the federal government is still committed to procuring 18 interim fighter jets and start the bidding process on the replacement fleet in "early 2019."
"We’re going to do a fair, open, transparent process for the full fleet replacement," Qualtrough said at the time.
With files from the Canadian Press