Super Hornet Eliminated from Canadian Fighter Competition

 - December 2, 2021, 12:34 PM
This company-produced impression shows how a Block III Super Hornet might have looked in RCAF colors, complete with conformal fuel tanks. (Photo: Boeing)

Following news reported in national media from unnamed insider sources, the Canadian government has confirmed that the Boeing F/A-18E Block III Super Hornet has been dropped from the country’s Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP), which is seeking 88 new fighters to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 and F/A-18 "classic" Hornet fleet.

The confirmation came in a December 1 news release from the Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) department, While it does not name the Super Hornet, it states that the remaining bidders now number just two: the U.S. government, Lockheed Martin, and Pratt & Whitney (F-35A); and the Swedish government, Saab, Diehl Defence, MBDA UK, and Rafael Advanced Defence Systems (Gripen E). Both the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon had earlier been withdrawn from FFCP by their bidders.

There is no reason specified as to why the Super Hornet has been eliminated, the announcement saying only that, “Proposals were rigorously assessed on elements of capability, cost, and economic benefits. The evaluation also included an assessment of economic impact.” Several analysts have speculated that it is the economic benefits issue that is most likely to have tripped up Boeing’s proposal. There is also lingering history: Canada had earlier announced plans to buy 18 Super Hornets as a stop-gap to maintain capability until FFCP could become operational. However, these plans were terminated in the wake of the trade row between the government and Boeing over the Bombardier CSeries (now Airbus A220). Instead, Canada bought low-hour ex-Australian "legacy" Hornets and launched an upgrade program for 36 of its fleet.

Boeing is naturally disappointed, having built what it considered to be a strong and compliant bid. A sizeable team of Canadian companies—including CAE, L3Harris Technologies, GE Canada, Peraton, Magellan Aerospace, and Raytheon Canada—had been brought on board the program to ensure strong Canadian input. The aircraft itself offered a number of benefits to the Royal Canadian Air Force, including twin-engine safety, similarity to the existing fleet, and the ability to fit conformal fuel tanks for long-endurance air defense missions.

Canada, meanwhile, is now finalizing the next steps of the selection process. According to the PSPC release, these could involve either entering negotiations with the top-ranked bidder or “a competitive dialogue, whereby the two remaining bidders would be provided with an opportunity to improve their proposals.” A selection is expected next year, with service entry slated for 2025.