Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), retirement of the CF-18 fleet will be coordinated with the acceptance schedule of F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft. The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces forecast that the number of CF-18s in service will reduce gradually in the early years of the acquisition of the F-35, and then reduce more quickly as the F-35 fleet comes online. The Canadian Forces undertook an in-depth planning process to ensure that there would be no operational gap for our fighter aircraft fleet. The current delivery plan is based on a cost-effective point in the F-35 production schedule, balanced against the Royal Canadian Air Force’s ability to absorb the F-35 and the anticipated life expectancy of the CF-18.
With regard to (b), to be clear, the CF-18 incremental modernization project, IMP, did not extend the structural life of the aircraft. This project was limited to addressing the obsolescence of avionics and armament systems that were no longer operationally relevant and were increasingly expensive to maintain.
There has been a separate multi-year project to increase the fatigue life of the aircraft by developing repair schemes for cracks and by strengthening the structure in key areas. The amount of repair work to be completed under this project will be assessed and managed as necessary to ensure that there are sufficient CF-18s available during the transition to the F-35.
With regard to (c)(i), initial operating capability is currently forecast to be 2020.
With regard to (c)(ii), full operational capability is currently forecast to be 2025.
The definition of initial operational capability, IOC, is associated with attaining a certain specific operational capability. In the case of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the declaration of initial operating capability is based on the RCAF receiving a certain minimum number of aircraft to employ operationally, as well as adequately trained operators and maintainers. In general, full operational capability will be reached once the project has delivered and put into place the full fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, trained personnel, infrastructure, equipment and support elements to meet the Canadian Forces’ mandated capabilities.
With regard to (d), the CF-18 incremental modernization project and the CF-18 structural life extension process have provided a measure of robustness and flexibility to react to short-term delays in the achievement of F-35 initial operational capability. As stated above, retirement of the CF-18 fleet will be coordinated with the acceptance schedule of F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft.