by Allan Ng
Canadian Defence Procurement – November 2003
The CF18 Hornet fighter aircraft – In Detail (Part 4)
Welcome to Canada ... have you anything to declare?
Allan Ng examines the evolution and development
of the CF's fighter
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet was chosen by Canada as the winner of the New Fighter Aircraft competition
in 1980. Officially designated the CF188 in Canadian service, the Hornet was quickly dubbed CF18
(to match the US system of designation). The order included 98 single-seat CF18A and 40 dual-seat CF18B
totalling 138 aircraft in all. Reportedly, this high percentage of twin-seaters was meant to
off-set greater anticipated levels of attrition in the training variant. Such fears have not been borne out by
CF operational experience, however.
Canada's air force chose their CF18 for many of the same reasons given by the United States Navy. Some of
the key capabilities were twin engine reliability – considered essential for flying over water and the
high Arctic – and the excellent radar set. While these features were also available in some of the
other contenders such as the F-14 and F-15, the chosen CF18 also had a very significant cost advantage.
The differences between the CF18 and US F/A-18s included a search light on the left-hand fuselage side
(to aid CF pilots in night-time identification of intercepted aircraft) and a painted-on false canopy on the
underside of the fuselage intended to disorient an enemy in air-to-air combat. Significantly, many naval features
were retained from the F/A-18 including the arrestor hook, the robust landing gear, and the wing-folding
mechanisms. These features proved to be advantageous when operating the new CF18s from smaller airfields,
especially in the Arctic.
Some words from the professor ...
The CF18 is powered by two General Electric F404-GE-400 turbofan engines each producing 10,600 lbs of thrust in
military thrust (the maximum thrust without use of afterburning) and 16,000 lbs in full afterburner. The
aircraft weighs 21,830 lbs empty and 35,800 lbs at take-off. The Hornet measures 56 feet (17m)
in length and 15.29 feet (4.66m) high. It has a wing span of 37.5 feet (11.43m) and wing area of 400 square
feet (37.17m2). The aircraft's maximum speed is Mach 1.8 and it has a manoeuver ceiling of 49,000 ft
(14,935m). The unrefuelled combat radius for the CF18 is 461 miles (741 km). But what do all of these
numbers mean? ...
 Aircraft weights and engine thrusts are expressed as pounds here to simplify
illustration. How many among us can work in Newtons and kilograms anyway?