OTTAWA — Canada kicked the tires on the idea of buying used fighter jets from Kuwait to address a shortage of CF-18s, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan revealed Thursday, but found they wouldn’t be ready in time.
The revelation comes amid a bitter and escalating dogfight between U.S. aerospace giant Boeing and Montreal-based Bombardier, which has the backing of Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberal government.
The Liberals had planned to buy 18 Super Hornets from Boeing to fill what they claim is a critical shortage of fighter jets, but have since threatened to go elsewhere over the Bombardier dispute.
Boeing has accused Bombardier of selling its controversial CSeries commercial liners to U.S.-based Delta Air Lines at a significant discount, thanks to assistance from what it considers improper government subsidies.
The dispute took a turn this week when the Department of Commerce ruled Bombardier did indeed receive improper subsidies and proposed a whopping 219 per cent duty on any CSeries planes entering the U.S.
The penalties won’t be official until the U.S. International Trade Commission rules next spring on whether the Bombardier-Delta deal actually hurt Boeing’s business.
The ruling has nonetheless divided the country — advocates in Quebec and Ottawa have been calling on the Liberals to fight fire with fire, while officials in Manitoba, where Boeing has a large facility, are urging calm.
Speaking from Riga, Latvia, where Canada has about 450 soldiers helping guard against Russian aggression in the region, Sajjan said he was disappointed with the Commerce Department’s ruling.
The minister wouldn’t say explicitly that the plan to buy Super Hornets is officially off the table, but he suggested as much.
“We are going to be moving ahead with filling that capability gap,” Sajjan said. ”We are pursuing other options.”
There are growing signs that the top option could be to buy used F/A-18s from Australia, which is getting rid of the fighter jets as it upgrades to the controversial F-35 stealth aircraft.
Kuwait, too, plans to sell its own used F/A-18s after securing its own deal to buy Super Hornets.