(Corrects the kind of planes Canada might buy)
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Canada, embroiled in a dispute with Boeing Co over the planned purchase of 18 new Super Hornet fighters, could buy older jets from Australia instead, the defense ministry said on Wednesday.
The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suspended talks with Boeing over the planned acquisition after the U.S. firm launched a trade challenge against Canadian planemaker Bombardier Inc in April.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says Canada needs the 18 jets to act as a stopgap measure until it is able run an open competition to replace its veteran CF-18 fighters, a process that could take five years. The CF-18 is the Canadian version of the F-18 Hornet, a design that is 40 years old.
“In light of Australia recently notifying all allies about their intent to dispose of their F-18 fleet, Canada visited them to inquire about the state of their equipment and spare parts,” Sajjan’s office said in a statement.
“It is too early to provide detailed information about other options,” it added.
Trudeau on Tuesday complained about what he called Boeing’s “unfair and aggressive” trade challenge against Bombardier, which the U.S. firm alleges is dumping passenger planes in the American market.
Neither Boeing nor the Australian High Commission (embassy) in Ottawa were immediately available for comment.
Around a decade ago, Australia bought 24 Super Hornets as an interim fleet until it could take delivery of F-35 planes made by Lockheed Martin Corp.
Canada’s former Conservative administration said in 2010 it would buy 65 F-35 jets but later scrapped the decision, triggering years of delays and reviews.
Ahead of the October 2015 election that brought him to power, Trudeau campaigned on a promise not to buy the F-35s, saying they were too expensive. Officials have since softened their line, saying the plane would be eligible to take part in the open competition. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by James Dalgleish)