CF-18 Hornet: Wikis


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CF-18 Hornet
CF-18 Banking left at CFB Bagotville
Role Multirole fighter
Manufacturer McDonnell Douglas / Boeing
First flight 18 November 1978
Introduced 7 January 1983
Primary user Canadian Forces
Number built 138
Developed from F/A-18 Hornet

The McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet (official military designation CF-188) is a Canadian Forces aircraft, based on the American F/A-18 Hornet. Following the New Fighter Aircraft competition, the F/A-18 was selected as the winner in 1980 and a production order was awarded. The Canadian Forces began receiving the CF-18 in 1982. CF-18s have supported NORAD air sovereignty patrols and participated in combat during the Gulf War of 1991 and Kosovo and Bosnia in the late 1990s.


New Fighter Aircraft program

In 1977, the Canadian government identified the need to replace the NATO assigned CF-104 Starfighter, the NORAD assigned CF-101 Voodoo and the CF-116 Freedom Fighter, although the decision was later made to keep the CF-116. The subsequent decision was to proceed with the New Fighter Aircraft competition (NFA), with a purchase budget of around C$2.4 billion to purchase 130-150 of the winner of the competition. Candidates included the F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, Panavia Tornado, Dassault Mirage F1 (later replaced by the Mirage 2000), plus the products of the American Lightweight Fighter (LWF) competition, the F-16 Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, and a de-navalized version of the Hornet, the F-18L. The government stressed that the winner of the competition be a proven off-the-shelf design and provide substantial industrial benefits as part of the order.

By 1978, the New Fighter Aircraft competitors were short listed to just two aircraft; the F-16 Falcon and the two F-18 offerings. The F-14, F-15, and the Tornado were rejected due to the high purchase price, while Dassault dropped out of the competition. The F-18L combined the systems and twin-engine layout of the F-18 that Air Command favored with a lighter land-based equipment setup that significantly improved performance. However, Northrop, the primary contractor for the F-18L version, had not built the aircraft by the time of the NFA program, waiting on successful deals before doing so. Additionally, while Northrop offered the best industrial offset package, it would only "pay off" if other F-18L orders were forthcoming, something the Department of National Defence (DND) was not willing to bet on.

However, the F-14 almost entered Canadian service through the backdoor due to the Iranian Revolution. In the aftermath of the revolution, the US cut off all military supplies to Iran, which meant that their new fleet of F-14s would be potentially rendered unflyable due to a lack of spares. The Canadians offered to purchase them at a steeply discounted price. However, the negotiations died before a deal was reached as it was revealed that Canadian involvement was instrumental for the smuggling of American embassy personnel out of the new Islamic Republic.[1]

A Canadian CF-18 flies off the coast of Hawaii

In 1980, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet was declared the winner of the New Fighter Aircraft competition. The order included 98 single-seat variants and 40 dual-seat variants, for a total of 138 purchased, plus 20 options (which were not exercised). The F/A-18 Hornet was then dubbed the CF-188 (the name Hornet not being used as the translation in French is "Frelon", which is already used by a French military helicopter). However, in every context except the most official of military documents, the planes are referred to as CF-18 Hornets. Reasons for the selection listed by the Canadian Forces were many of its requested features were included for the US Navy; two engines for reliability (considered essential for conducting Arctic sovereignty and over-the-water patrols), an excellent radar set, while being considerably more affordable than the F-14 and the F-15.

CF-18 design changes

The most visible difference between a CF-18 and a US F-18 is the 600,000 candela night identification light. This spotlight is mounted in the gun loading door on the port side of the aircraft. Some CF-18s have the light temporarily removed, but the window is always in place. Also, the underside of the CF-18 features a painted "dummy canopy". This is intended to disorient and confuse an enemy in air-to-air combat. Subsequently, the US Marine Corps Aviation and the Spanish Air Force F/A-18 also adopted this "dummy canopy."

Many features that made the F/A-18 suitable for naval carrier operations were also retained by the Canadian Forces, such as the robust landing gear, the arrestor hook, and wing-folding mechanisms, which proved useful when operating the fighters from smaller airfields such as those found in the Arctic.

Operational history

Introduction into Canadian service

A Soviet Tu-95 Bear H aircraft being escorted by a Canadian Air Force CF-188 Hornet fighter in 1987.

The first two CF-18s were formally handed over to 410 (Operational Training Unit) Squadron at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta on 25 October 1982.[2] Further deliveries equipped 409, 439, and 421 Squadrons at Baden-Soellingen in then West Germany, the 410 Operation Training Unit, 416, and 441 Squadrons at Cold Lake, and 425 Squadron at Bagotville, Quebec. However, introduction into Canadian service was initially problematic due to early issues with structural fatigue which delayed initial deployment. As the initial bugs were worked out, the CF-18 started filling the NORAD interception and NATO roles as intended.


In 1991, Canada committed 26 CF-18s to the Gulf War on Operation Friction. (The US portion of the Gulf War was called Desert Shield/Desert Storm.) The CF-18s were based in Doha, Qatar. During the Gulf War, Canadian pilots flew 5,700+ hours, including 2,700 combat air patrol missions. These aircraft were taken from Canada's airbase in Germany, CFB Baden-Soellingen (now a civilian airport). In the beginning the CF-18s began sweep and escort combat missions to support ground-attack strikes by Allied air forces. However, during the 100-hour Allied ground invasion in late February, CF-18s also flew 56 bombing sorties, mainly dropping 500 lb (230 kg) conventional ("dumb") bombs on Iraqi artillery positions, supply dumps, and marshaling areas behind the lines. At the time the Canadian Hornets were unable to deploy precision guided munitions (PGMs).

A Canadian CF-18A Hornet from the 409th Squadron at Cold Lake, Alberta (Canada), launches a laser-guided bomb at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida (USA), on 5 December 2006.

Continuing violence in the former Yugoslavia brought CF-18s into theatre twice: first for a three-month deployment (Op Mirador, August–November 1997) for air patrols supporting NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and again from late June 1998 until late December 2000 (Op Echo).

In June 1999, with 18 CF-18s already deployed to Aviano, Italy, Canada participated in both the air-to-ground and air-to-air roles. Canadian aircraft conducted 10 percent of the NATO strike sorties despite deploying a much smaller percentage of the overall forces. Canadian pilots flew 678 combat sorties:120 defensive counter-air escorts for Allied strike packages and 558 bombing strikes during 2,577 combat flying hours. CF-18s dropped a total of 397 PGMs and 171 free-fall iron bombs on a wide variety of targets including surface-to-air missile sites, airfields, bridges and fuel storage areas.

Future of the fleet

A CF-18 Hornet in the 2009 Century of Canadian Flight colour scheme in Bagotville, Quebec

The need to upgrade the CF-18 became necessary as demonstrated during Gulf War and during the 1998 Kosovo conflict as advances in technology had rendered some of the avionics on board the CF-18 obsolete and incompatible with NATO allies. In 2000, CF-18 upgrades became possible when the government decided to increase the defence budget.[3][4] Then in 2001, the military initiated a major modernization program for the CF-18 dubbed the CF-18 Incremental Modernization Project (IMP).[5] The fleet is currently expected to be operational through 2015–2023 at which time the fleet will be replaced by at least 65 fighters. The most likely candidate is the F-35 Lightning II given the investment made in the project by the Canadian government and its status as an informed partner. No decisions or request for proposals have been made at this time, however the Eurofighter Typhoon, SAAB JAS 39 Gripen, and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet have also been promoted as contenders for the replacement by their respective manufacturers.[6] It is estimated the project will cost 4 to 8 billion dollars without maintenance, training, and spare parts according to Le Devoir. [7]


  • CF-18A : Single-seat fighter and ground attack aircraft. Canadian Forces designation CF-188A.
  • CF-18B : Two-seat training version. Canadian Forces designation CF-188B.


Lt. Col. Sean Penney exits his CF-18 in 2009

In 2001 the Incremental Modernization Project (IMP) was begun. The project was broken into two phases over a period of seven years and is meant to improve air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities, upgrade sensors and the defensive suite, and replace the datalinks and communications systems on board the CF-18 from the old F/A-18A and F/A-18B standard to the current F/A-18C and D standard. Boeing (merged with McDonnell Douglas) the primary contractor and L-3 Communications the primary subcontractor, was then issued a contract for the modernization project starting in 2002. A total of 80 CF-18s, consisting of 62 single-seat and 18 dual-seat models were selected from the fleet for the upgrade progam. The project is supposed to extend the life of the CF-18 until 2017–2020.

Incremental Modernization Project Phase I

Replacing the AN/APG-65 radar with the new AN/APG-73 radar, which has triple the processing speed and memory capacity, while also incorporating Terrain Following and Terrain Avoidance modes for low level ground attack missions. Furthermore, the new AN/APG-73 radar is also capable of guiding the modern AIM-120 AMRAAM medium range missile.

Addition of the AN/APX-111 Combined Interrogator and Transponder, otherwise known as an IFF (Identification Friend or Foe). The new IFF brings the CF-18 up to current NATO standards for combat identification.

Replacement of the radios with the new AN/ARC-210 RT-1556/ARC VHF/UHF Radio. This radio, capable of line-of-sight communications on VHF/UHF frequencies as well as HAVE QUICK, HAVE QUICK II, and SINCGARS waveforms resolved the issues of compatibility with allied forces, and are more resistant to jamming.

Replacement of the mission computers with the General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems AN/AYK-14 XN-8 mission computer with increased memory and processing capabilities.

Replacement of the Stores Management System with the Smith Aerospace AN/AYQ-9 Stores Management System. This makes the CF-18 more compatible with the latest of precision guided munitions and furthermore adds the MIL-STD-1760 interface for use of the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile and the JDAM family of GPS-guided bombs.

Furthermore, a Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System (GPS/INS) capability was installed on the CF-18, which enhances its navigational capabilities.

Within the same time frame, other non-IMP upgrades include
  • A new infrared sensor pod was installed on the aircraft.
  • The old cathode ray tube cockpit instrument panels were replaced with new flat paneled, full colour LCD displays from Litton Systems Canada (now Northrop Grumman Canada).[8]
  • A new night vision imaging system was added to the aircraft.
  • Purchase of the AIM-120 AMRAAM medium range missiles and other advanced air to air and air to ground munitions.
  • A landing-gear “get well” program to reduce corrosion and improve gear retraction.
  • An Advanced Distributed Combat Training System.

The first completed "Phase I" CF-18 was delivered to the Canadian Forces on time in May 2003.[9] Final delivery of all "Phase I" CF-18s was done at a ceremony on 31 August 2006 at L-3 Communications in Mirabel, Quebec.[10]

Incremental Modernization Project Phase II
A 425 Squadron CF-188 Hornet which has undergone phase 2 of the Incremental Modernization Project, distinguishable because of the IFF antenna on its nose.

Phase II of the CF-18 Incremental Modernization Project was awarded to Boeing on 22 February 2005. It consists of the following upgrades:

  • The addition of a Link 16 data net system to the aircraft, enhancing interoperability with major NATO allies.
  • The integration of the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System from Boeing, BAE Systems, DRDC and L-3 Communications MAS.[11][12][13]
  • A crash survivable flight data recorder.
  • An upgraded electronic warfare suite.
Within the same time frame, other non-IMP upgrades include
  • A fuselage Centre Barrel Replacement Project (for 40 of the upgraded aircraft).
  • An Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation System.
  • An Integrated Electronic Warfare Support Station.
  • An Electronic Warfare Test Equipment Project.

The first completed "Phase II" CF-18 was delivered to the Canadian Forces on 20 August 2007, at a ceremony in Montreal.[14][15]

Completion of the final phase of the CF-18 Incremental Modernization Project is expected to be in 2009. Total costs of the entire CF-18 Incremental Modernization Project and additional Hornet upgrades is expected to be around $2.6 billion dollars Canadian.[16][17]


A CF-18B Hornet on the ground at St. Catharines/Niagara District Airport
  • Year(s) procured: 1982 to 1988
  • Originally Ordered: 98 CF-18A / 40 CF-18B
  • Current strength: 72 CF-18As and 31 CF-18Bs in inventory as of November 2008.[18] 80 in operational use.

Planned allocation is two operational squadrons of 24 aircraft each, with the remaining 33 available for training, testing and evaluation AETE, and depot level maintenance.

  • Operational readiness: Of the 48 aircraft in operational squadrons, 34 (70%) are normally mission-ready on a daily basis.
  • Operational lifetime: The Canadian Forces expect the Hornet to maintain front line status until 2017 to 2020, and also expect losses at an average rate of one aircraft every two years.
  • Serial numbers: 188701 to 188798 (CF-18A), and 188901 to 188940 (CF-18B)
No. 425 Alouette Tactical Fighter Squadron
No. 409 Nighthawks Tactical Fighter Squadron
No. 410 Cougars Tactical Fighter (Operational Training) Squadron
AETE (Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment)
  • Cost: US$35 million each in 2003.[citation needed]


Canada has lost 16 CF-18s, incurring 8 pilot deaths as of 4 April 2009.[19]

Notable losses
  • 14 August 1996: Aircraft crashes on takeoff from Iqaluit, Northwest Territories. Pilot safely ejects.[20]
  • 26 May 2003: CF-18 crashes on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range during the annual international training exercise MAPLE FLAG; pilot (Captain Kevin Naismith) killed.[21][22]
  • 19 June 2004: Aircraft from CFB Cold Lake lost when it was unable to stop while at Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Aircraft was salvaged and is back in service. Pilot ejected but was injured.[23]
  • 16 August 2005: Aircraft crashes during a training exercise near CFB Bagotville. Pilot safely ejects.[24]

Popular culture

The documentary television show, Jetstream which aired on Discovery Channel Canada, followed eight pilots training with the Canadian air force to fly the CF-18 at CFB Cold Lake. They trained under the 410 Tactical Fighter Training Squadron.[25][26]

Specifications (CF-18)

Orthographic projection of the F/A-18 Hornet.

Data from CF-18 Specifications[27]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 or 2
  • Length: 56 ft 0 in (17.07 m)
  • Wingspan: 40 ft 0 in with Sidewinders (12.31 m)
  • Height: 15 ft 4 in (4.66 m)
  • Wing area: 400 ft² (37.16 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 65A005 mod root, 65A003.5 mod tip
  • Empty weight: 23,049 lb (10,455 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 37,150 lb (16,850 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 51,550 lb (23,400 kg)
  • Powerplant:General Electric F404-GE-400 turbofans, 16,000 lbf (71.2 kN) each



  • Nine Weapon/ Store Stations (5 pylons: 1 Under Fuselage and 4 Wing Stations) (2 LAU 116 located on sides of fuselage: deploys AIM 7 Sparrow and AMRAAM Missiles)(2 LAU 7 located on the wing tips: Deploys AIM 9 Sidewinder Missile), carrying up to 13,700 lb (6,215 kg) of missiles, rockets, bombs, fuel tanks, and pods
  • 1x 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan internal gatling gun with 578 rounds, with a firing rate of 4,000 or 6,000 shots per minute
  • Missiles:


See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


  1. ^ "The CF18 Hornet fighter aircraft – In Detail (Part 3)." Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  2. ^ Spick, Mike. The Great Book of Modern Warplanes. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company, 2000. ISBN 0-7603-0893-4.
  3. ^ "The CF18 Incremental Modernization Program – In Detail (part 1)." CASR, December 2003. Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  4. ^ "Canadian military to get more." Flight International, 7 March 2000.
  5. ^ CF-18 Hornet: Future Plans. Canada's Air Force.
  6. ^ Pugliese, David. "Canadian Air Force Needs Competition on Next Generation Fighter Next Year at the Latest." Ottawa Citizen, 4 November 2009. Retrieved: 4 November 2009.
  7. ^ Castonguay, Alec. "Le Canada veut remplacer ses CF-18: une facture de quatre milliards au bas mot." (French) Le Devoir, 11 November 2009. Retrieved: 11 November 2009.
  8. ^ Boeing Awarded Contract with Canada to Update Displays on F/A-18s
  9. ^ Boeing Delivers First CF-18 Aircraft from Modernization Project
  10. ^ "Boeing Completes First Phase of CF-18 Aircraft Modernization Project." Boeing. Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  11. ^ "CF-18 Aircraft Crewstation Demonstrator System Upgrade." DRDC, 6 January 2003. Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  12. ^ "JHMCS." Boeing. Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  13. ^ "JHMCS backgrounder." Boeing, August 2008.
  14. ^ "Air Force receives first Phase II modernized CF-18 fighter jet". Canada's Air Force, 11 September 2007. Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  15. ^ "Boeing Delivers First Upgraded Phase II CF-18 Hornet to Canadian Defence Forces." Boeing, 22 August 2007. Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  16. ^ "Canada's Air Force, Aircraft: CF-18 Hornet:Future Plans." Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  17. ^ "CASR - The CF18 Incremental Modernization Program – In Detail." Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  18. ^ "Directory: World Air Forces". Flight International, 11-17 November 2008.
  19. ^ "Ejection history."
  20. ^ Van Rassel, Jason. "CF-18 fighter jet crashes in Iqaluit.", 16 August 2006. Retrieved: 27 June 2009.
  21. ^ "Pilot crash." CBC, 26 May 2003. Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  22. ^ "Summary report on CF-18 crash at CFB Cold Lake." DND/CF, 3 September 2003. Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  23. ^ "Second Canadian Forces jet accident in Yellowknife." CBC Canada, 19 June 2004. Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  24. ^ "Aviation Canada." Retrieved: 14 March 2010.
  25. ^ "Jetstream page." Discovery Channel Canada. Retrieved: 2 September 2009.
  26. ^ "Jetstream page." Retrieved: 2 September 2009.
  27. ^ CF-18 "Technical Specifications." Canada's Air Force. Retrieved: 6 February 2008.
  • "Aircraft: CF-18 Hornet." Canada's Air Force.
  • "Aircraft: CF-18 Hornet: History." Canada's Air Force.
  • "The CF18 Hornet fighter aircraft – In Detail." CASR, November 2003.
  • "The CF18 Incremental Modernization Program – In Detail." CASR, December 2003.
  • Drendel, Lou. F/A-18 Hornet in action (Aircraft Number 136). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1993. ISBN 0-89747-300-0.
  • Elward, Brad. Boeing F/A-18 Hornet (WarbirdTech, Vol. 31). North Branch, Minnesota: Specialty Press, 2001. ISBN 1-58007-041-8.
  • "F/A-18 Hornet." Boeing.
  • Gunston, Bill. F/A-18 Hornet (Modern Combat Aircraft 22). St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International, 1985. ISBN 0-71101-485-X.
  • Jenkins, Dennis R. F/A-18 Hornet: A Navy Success Story. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000. ISBN 0-07-134696-1.
  • Miller, Jay. McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (Aerofax Minigraph 25). Arlington, Texas: Aerofax Inc., 1988. ISBN 0-942548-39-6.
  • Peacock, Lindsay. F/A-18 Hornet (Osprey Combat Aircraft Series). London: Osprey Publishing, 1986. ISBN 0-85045-707-6.
  • Senior, Tim. "F/A-18 Hornet". AirForces Monthly, 2003. ISBN 0-946219-69-9.
  • Spick, Mike. McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet (Classic Warplanes). London: Salamander Books, 1991. ISBN 0-8317-1412-3.

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