Upgrades for the CF-18 to Be Operational Until 2032
(Source: Canadian Department of National Defence; issued June 26, 2019)
Responding to a report by the Auditor-General, the Canadian Department of National Defence has revealed that the first phase upgrade of its fleet of CF-118 Hornet fighters will “begin in summer 2019, with upgrades completed by 2025.” (RCAF photo)
In the report released in fall 2018, the Auditor General found that, other than some weapons upgrades in 2011, National Defence had not significantly upgraded the CF-18 for combat since 2008. The Auditor General concluded that the CF-18’s capabilities are not up to date with most modern combat aircraft and air defence systems and that the problem would get worse with time.

As such, the Auditor General requested that National Defence analyze the upgrades required for CF-18 fighter aircraft to be operationally relevant until 2032 and to seek approval for those which were achievable.

The Department of National Defence agreed to the Auditor General’s recommendation. The Department’s response highlighted plans to seek approval on regulatory and interoperability upgrades to continue flying the CF-18 until 2032. In addition, the Department stated that the Royal Canadian Air Force is conducting an analysis of required combat system upgrades. The Management Action Plan provided further information on the timelines for these commitments.

Progress Update

As committed to in the Department’s response to the Auditor General’s report, the Royal Canadian Air Force is moving forward with seeking approval for a number of enhancements and upgrades to extend the life of the CF-18 fleet until transition to the permanent replacement fleet.

These enhancements and upgrades are to be delivered under one project in two phases.

-- Phase 1: This phase will provide upgrades to address CF-18 interoperability and regulatory deficiencies to address new and changing standards. These upgrades will maintain CF-18 compliance with both evolving aviation regulatory requirements, and updated allied interoperability standards, until the permanent replacement aircraft is in place, expected in 2032.

Phase 1 of the project is expected to begin in summer 2019, with upgrades completed by 2025.

-- Phase 2: This phase will aim to provide combat enhancements to the aircraft that are both operationally effective and technically feasible, through to 2032. The Royal Canadian Air Force’s analysis is underway to confirm combat systems upgrades.

National Defence has a robust process to determine the required upgrades. This includes the work of the Fighter Capability Office, which continually assesses fleet readiness and capability.

The CAF also uses multi-national training exercises, such as exercise Maple Flag, to assess the capability of Canada’s fighter fleet in comparison to Canada’s allies, as well as against modern air and ground threat systems.


The above is excerpted from the Canadian Government’s response to the autumn 2018 report by the Auditor-General of Canada on “Canada’s Fighter Force.” Click here for the full response (7 PDF pages) on the Canada House of Commons website.

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