UPDATE: Former air force brass recommend buying used rather than new Super Hornets

Trudeau accuses Boeing of receiving billions of dollars in government support in call to Missouri governor.

September 6, 2017   by Lee Berthiaume

A US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet.
Photo: Rob Taber, USAF

OTTAWA — Three retired air force generals say buying used fighter jets from Australia is a much better plan for Canada than purchasing new Super Hornets from Boeing.

Tom Lawson, Andre Deschamps and Kenneth Pennie say Australia’s old F-18s will need modifications to operate alongside Canada’s CF-18s, but that would cost a lot less than brand-new Super Hornets.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office says Canadian officials recently visited Australia to look at that country’s used F-18s, which are being sold and replaced by F-35 stealth fighters.

Revelations of the visit come as the war between the federal government and Super Hornet maker Boeing Co.– over the latter’s trade dispute with Montreal-based Bombardier – has reached new levels.


Boeing says it won’t drop its complaint to the US Commerce Department that Bombardier sold passenger jets to US airline Delta at an unfairly low price with help from government subsidies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken up the federal government’s showdown against Boeing Co. with the governor of Missouri, where the US aerospace giant builds its Super Hornet fighter jets.

In what appears to have been a frank phone call with Gov. Eric Greitens, Trudeau made note of the number of Missouri jobs that depend on the jets and the fact Canada is the state’s largest trading partner.

The prime minister didn’t rule out buying Super Hornets, but blasted Boeing for its dispute with Montreal-based Bombardier, and accused the US company of receiving billions of dollars in government support.

A brief, terse summary of the call was released by the Prime Minister’s Office. Greiten’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

The call between Trudeau and Greitens ups the ante in the fight between Canada and Boeing, and comes after a senior Boeing official said the company had no intention of backing down in its fight with Bombardier.

By highlighting Missouri’s trade relationship with Canada, and the number of local jobs tied to the Super Hornet, the Liberals are clearly hoping Greitens will put pressure on Boeing to rethink its position.

Boeing’s plant in St. Louis, Mo., which focuses on the defence and space sectors, employs some 15,000 people, of which an estimated 5,000 are involved in building Super Hornets. The main assembly plant for Boeing’s well-known passenger jets is located in Everett, Wash.

The government announced last November it would purchase 18 “interim” Super Hornets to fill a critical shortage of fighter jets until a full competition to replace Canada’s entire CF-18 fleet could be run starting in 2019.

The government said at the time that the Super Hornet was the only aircraft able to meet its immediate requirements, which include a mature design that’s compatible with US fighters.

But that was before Boeing complained to the US Commerce Department that Bombardier was selling its CSeries jet liners at an unfair price with assistance from federal government subsidies.

American authorities are currently investigating the complaint and are expected to present their preliminary findings on Sept. 25, which could lead to fines or tariffs against Bombardier.

The Liberal government has linked the trade dispute to its plan to purchase Super Hornets, cutting off contact with the company and threatening to walk away from the fighter purchase if Boeing doesn’t drop the case.

Boeing has shown no signs of reconsidering, however. One of the company’s top executives, Marc Allen, described the dispute as being about protecting the firm’s broader interests.

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