In this Canada Institute Commentary, we review the evolution of the Interim Fighter Capability Project and its importance in the Canada's NORAD Mission. Included in this report are expert interviews with retired Admiral William Gortney, NORAD commander from 2014 to 2016 and Dr. Michael Byers, one of Canada's leading specialists in Arctic Security.

Report Summary

In November 2016, Canada’s Liberal government announced that it would acquire 18 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets to augment its aging fleet of CF-18 Hornets.

Meanwhile, in 2010, Canada’s Conservative government announced a planned acquisition of 65 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The announcement in 2016 does not necessarily represent a reversal of the original F-35 program but provides an interim solution to alleviate a short-term capability gap. As Defence Minister Harjit Saijan explains: “The interim fleet provides the most effective way forward to help ensure Canada remains a credible and dependable ally.”  This briefing note provides a contextual discussion of the contribution of the Interim Fighter Capability Project (IFCP) to Canada’s NORAD mission. Click here to read the full report.

Interview with Admiral William Gortney

Will Canada’s current fighter jets be sufficient to fulfill the NORAD mission?

Admiral Gortney: Canadian fighter pilots are the best I have flown with or commanded.  I have been taught by Canadian F-18 pilots and have taught Canadian F-18 pilots.  Historically, Canada has done an excellent job meeting its NORAD commitments with the F-18s. Against the odds, it continues to do a remarkable job with its Legacy Hornets. But, Canada’s current fleet is more than 30 years old, down from 138 to 76 aircraft. There are finite limits to how long you can extend the operational life of an aircraft and it is difficult to modernize an aging aircraft without adding too much weight. Read the full interview here.

Interview with Dr. Michael Byers

How would the acquisition of Super Hornets support the imperatives of North American defence and Arctic sovereignty?

Dr. Michael Byers: The F-18 and Super Hornet aircraft are well suited for the Arctic because they were built for the U.S. Navy with the mission of flying long distances over oceans. They have an impressive range that is compatible with the demands of the Canadian far north, where airfields are few and far between. Also, in remote areas, two engines are better than one because of the redundancy and therefore safety that they provide. It is this combination of range and reliability that led both the Canadians and the Americans to acquire the original F-18s. Canada needs new fighter jets and it needs them quickly if it is to continue to fulfill its NORAD mission. Read the full interview here.