A total of 80 CF-18 Hornet aircraft are undergoing a thorough mid-life upgrade to ensure that the Canadian Forces have a modern and interoperable fighter fleet for at least 15 more years. Various modernization projects are combined in two distinct phases of the overall aircraft modernization program.
Of the 138 CF-18s procured between 1982 and 1988, 121 aircraft remain: 15 were lost to accidents, one aircraft was rendered unflyable as part of testing procedures, and one aircraft (number 901) has been inducted into the Canada Aviation Museum. A total of 92 aircraft will be kept operational until the Phase I modernization of a total of 80 CF-18s is completed in 2006. Of the surplus aircraft, several will be retained for spare parts, and the others likely will be offered up for sale. At this time, none of these aircraft formally has been declared surplus.
The Role of the CF-18:
The 1994 Defence White Paper and the Defence Planning Guidance both articulate the requirement for an operational capable fighter force that is to be modernized, as required, in order to maintain the capability to protect Canadian sovereignty, to contribute to collective defense of North America within the NORAD agreement, and to provide a credible contribution to UN, NATO, and coalition-led peace operations.
The CF-18 is a proven and durable fighter aircraft. Today, Canadian Air Force CF-18s, their pilots, and aircrews are deployed with NORAD, ready to respond to threats to North America.
Modernizing the CF-18 fleet will support an extended operational viability to at least 2017-2020. This delays the need to acquire a replacement fighter aircraft while saving billions of dollars in the process.
The CF-18 is a modern and capable fighter aircraft with a secure communications capability, which is, however, not fully inter-operable with our Allies. With the completion of Phase I of the Incremental Modernization Project in 2006, the CF-18 will achieve secure communication inter-operability.
Phase I of Modernization: This first phase of CF-18 modernization is a cornerstone project that entails the procurement and installation of a new radar, Have-Quick jam-resistant radios, Combined Interrogator/ Transponders, Stores Management Systems, Mission Computers and Embedded Global Positioning Systems/Inertial Navigation Systems.
The upgrade is based on a US Navy Engineering Change Proposal (ECP 583) and is the most cost effective, minimum-risk method to satisfy the CF-18 modernization requirements. The system has not only has been tested extensively, but has flown operationally.
A new infra-red sensor, multi-purpose display group, night vision imaging system, advanced air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons and a new advanced distributed combat training simulation system will be procured in parallel with Phase I.
Phase II of Modernization:
Phase II is scheduled to start in 2006. It involves the installation of a data-link system allowing connectivity with others, surveillance and air combat assets, a helmet-mounted display, a crash survivable flight recorder and an upgraded electronic warfare system to enhance survivability of the aircraft and its crew against evolving surface-to-air threat.
In addition to the two modernization phases for CF-18 aircraft, four off-aircraft projects are in various stages of development or implementation. The Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation System, the Integrated Electronic Warfare Support Station, and the Electronic Warfare Test Equipment projects are expanding the support capabilities for CF-18 pilots.
Modernization Program Costs:
The entire modernization program, phased over eight years, will create employment and technology development opportunities for Canadians. Although the overall cost of the project has not been finalized, approvals to date total approximately $1.2 billion.
Phase II projects are still in developmental and planning stages and are estimated to cost approximately $314 million.
Canada's is not the only Air force conducting a wholesale upgrade to the Hornet. The Royal Australian Air Force, the United State Marine Corps and the United States Navy are also extending the life of their F-18s.
New multi-purpose displays were developed as a cooperative project between Canada and Australia, resulting in a significant cost savings for Canada. Since the Royal Australian Air Force had already contracted Boeing for work on their F/A-18 A & B aircraft, selecting the same prime contractor minimized project risk.
CF-18 Modernization is a fiscally responsible and financially feasible method of continuing to provide Canada with a safe, reliable and effective fighter aircraft fleet. It will provide the Canadian Forces with up-to-date equipment, increase Air Force interoperability with our allies and enhance CF flexibility to meet future national and global missions.
-ends- CF-18 Modernization: Acceptance of the First Phase I Modernized Aircraft