I think the decision comes down to the willingness of Canada to be part of the tip of the spear in a major conflict. Canada has never provided high end fighters in any conflict. The F-35 is the obvious selection if they now want to do so.
However there is nothing wrong with Canada accepting their traditional policing role and providing the role of escorting tankers/awacs etc, in lower risk areas. These jobs still need to be filled in a major conflict and it frees up higher end assets to be used in higher risk areas.
The RCAF Hornets contributed significantly during the Balkans conflict, especially in 1999 where they conducted a significant number of A2G strikes. They sat out of the second Gulf War to the detriment of their US relationship for a number of years (in hindsight probably a wise decision…). They dropped a credible number of weapons over Libya and also conducted A2G strikes against ISIS until Trudeau withdrew them. In all of those conflicts the CF-18 was as capable as or more so than comparable aircraft from partner nations.
I think the Gripen has a very good chance. It has the lowest operating costs by a very significant margin. The Hornets have only ever done basic missions and the Gripen will be able to do similar missions for the next couple decades. Single engine over the arctic is only a minor issue which the F-35 also shares.
I don’t think so. The intelligence sharing issues that forced Dassault to withdraw present for a start. Secondly the Gripen, even in E form, has the shortest range (with a meaningful payload) of any of the options as well as the least capable set of systems and sensors. It will also likely be unable to lower the cost per aircraft to F-35A levels given the respective production volumes but it may be the cheapest to sustain, at least for a time. I would expect the Gripen to require at least two upgrades over its life of type and more likely three to maintain capability which is the hidden cost of future fighter sustainment.
I still don’t see how a single engine fighter would work for us. If northern sovereignty is a priority, and given the size of our airspace, we need something that has a fighting chance of making an airfield on a single working engine. The Super Hornet is still my pick, it’s relatively cheap, available quicker, proven and has some level of commonality with the Hornet.
While the Super Hornet seems an attractive choice it goes out of service with the USN in 2040. With only two other operators of the jet, the RAAF who will almost certainly retire the aircraft by 2035 before the USN, and Kuwait, hardly a first tier air force, acquiring the Super Hornet to operate for 30+ years in 2025 is a significant risk. The platform is likely to be unsustainable or simply prohibitively expensive to maintain once it leaves USN service.
The single engine/duel engine argument has been discussed here at length but there is nothing to support the argument, with the current generation of engines, that a single engine aircraft is any less reliable. Many nations operate single engine aircraft in similar conditions to Canada and have excellent safety records.
If we get a new government in October, or a minority, I can totally see this project be altered or restarted, once again.
To what end? There aren’t any other manufacturers that could realistically offer an alternative and the RCAF have been pretty clear on requirements. The only reason I could see for a delay would be for budgetary reasons but that just pushes the acquisition cost out further and increases the Hornet sustainment cost significantly. In fact pushing the contest out further would likely see both the Eurofighter and Super Hornet end production while there would be a significant gap until FCAS, Tempest or PCA (if they can even afford it) are available.