A timeline of efforts to replace Canada’s CF 18 fighter jets

Liberals to launch another round of consultations with the defence and industry.

July 7, 2016   by CP STAFF

OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced the Liberal government intends to launch consultations with the defence and aerospace industry to replace Canada’s existing fleet of CF-18 fighter jets, just the latest step in a process that dates back almost 20 years. Here’s a timeline:

1980: Canada decides to buy 138 F-18 Hornets to replace existing air force planes. Their projected lifespan was about 20 years.

1997: The Liberal government invests $10 million in the US-led Joint Strike Fighter program to develop a new fighter jet.

2000: Upgrades to the existing fleet of CF-18s begin in order to keep them flying until 2020.


2001: Lockheed Martin’s F-35 wins a competition under the Joint Strike Fighter program, beating out Boeing.

2010: The Conservative government announces it will buy 65 F-35s to replace the CF-18s at a cost of $9 billion. The cost estimate and decision to sole source generate controversies for more than two years.


• Auditor general releases report saying the price tag is $10 billion higher. Conservatives put a freeze on the budget, and hand the procurement process over to a new secretariat.

• A separate Defence Department review later in the year pegs the full cost of owning and operating 65 F-35s through the 2050s at nearly $46 billion.

• National Fighter Procurement Secretariat awards contract to KPMG to review financials for the fighter jet replacement program.

• The secretariat begins consulting industry on available options to replace the CF-18.

• Defence Department does its own assessment of the F-35.

• Independent panel also appointed to review fighter jet options.


• Independent panel delivers its report to government. It evaluated several plans but makes no recommendation, a decision left to senior bureaucrats.

• The recommendation to cabinet is that the F-35 is the right choice.

• The Conservative government says will continue to participate in the Joint Strike Fighter Program to keep all options open until a decision is made on the replacement of the CF-18 fleet.


• The Liberal campaign platform promises they won’t buy the F-35 and will hold an open and transparent competition. After forming government in November 2015, the mandate letter for Defence Minister Sajjan repeats promise to hold a competition but drops specific language on F35s.


• Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Michael Hood tells a Commons committee Canada has enough fighter jets, and that a decision on a replacement can wait five years.

• Sajjan says the air force is facing a “capability gap,” which he later explains as a shortage of fighter jets to meet its NATO and NORAD commitments.

• The Liberal government misses a payment to stay in the F-35 program.

• Postmedia reports the government is looking at scrapping the idea of an open competition in favour of a sole-source purchase of Boeing Super Hornets. The government says no decision has been made.

• Sajjan announces next round of consultations.

Print this page

Related Stories