An RCAF CF-18 takes off from CFB Bagotville, Que. on Thursday, June 7, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

Expect plan to upgrade aging CF-18s next May, defence officials say

Feds plan to invest $3 billion over next decade to keep CF-18s going until new fighter-jets bought

Defence officials say they expect to know next spring what sensor, weapons and defensive upgrades will be needed to ensure the country’s aging CF-18 fighter jets are still able to fly combat missions until they are replaced in 2032.

The Trudeau government plans to invest $3 billion over the next decade to keep the CF-18s as well as a handful of second-hand Australian fighters in the air until a new fighter-jet is purchased.

But auditor general Michael Ferguson found last month that price tag did not include any actual upgrades to the planes’ combat systems, which have not had any significant upgrades since 2008.

READ MORE: Air force getting more planes but has no one to fly them, auditor warns

Defence officials told a House of Commons committee this afternoon they expect to have an idea by May what kind of combat upgrades will be needed — upgrades analysts expect will cost hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars.

The officials also blamed a nationwide shortage of pilots for contributing to the air force’s difficulty in finding enough fighter jockeys to fly the CF-18s, which Ferguson also flagged as a major concern.

A number of measures are being explored or implemented to retain experienced pilots, who Ferguson found are leaving faster than they can be replaced.

The Canadian Press

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