WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has cleared Canada to purchase a package of upgrades for its fleet of CF-18 Hornets, including upgraded radars and weapons, intended to serve as a bridge between the legacy fleet and Canada’s future fighter.
The package, which comes with an estimated price tag of $862.3 million, would fulfill the requirements for Canada’s “Hornet Extension Project Phase 2,” which was announced last year. The program seeks to upgrade the “sensors, weapons, survivability, security and mission support to maintain parity with evolving threats” for 36 of Canada’s Hornets, with initial delivery in 2023, according to a statement on the Canadian military’s website.
Canada has 80 CF-18s in inventory and is in the midst of a long attempt to replace the aging fighters with 88 newer designs — one of which has been marred with restarts and political challenges. The Phase 2 extension is designed to help bridge the capability gap until new jets come online.
Among the upgrades included in this potential package: 50 Sidewinder AIM-9X Block II tactical missiles; 38 APG-79(V)4 active electronically scanned array radars; 38 APG-79(V)4 AESA radar A1 kits; 46 F/A-18A wide-band RADOMEs; upgrades to the Advanced Distributed Combat Training System; and technical assistance to support the upgraded jets.
“This sale will provide Canada a 2-squadron bridge of enhanced F/A-18A aircraft to continue meeting NORAD and NATO commitments while it gradually introduces new advanced aircraft via the Future Fighter Capability Program between 2025 and 2035,” said a statement from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, using an acronym for the U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command.
“The proposed sale of the capabilities, as listed, will improve Canada’s capability to meet current and future warfare threats and provide greater security for its critical infrastructure,” it added.
Work would be performed by Raytheon in its El Segundo, California, location; General Dynamics Mission Systems in Marion, Virginia; Boeing’s St. Louis, Missouri, facility; and Collins Aerospace in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Any industrial offset agreements will be sorted out in the future.
Announcements of potential Foreign Military Sales deals are not final, and dollar amounts or quantities of items may change during final negotiation.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.