by Allan Ng
Canadian Defence Procurement – December 2003
The CF18 Incremental Modernization Program – In Detail
Not Your Father's Hornet — the CF18 Incremental Modernization Program
Allan Ng reviews DND's CF18 fighter aircraft modernization plan (Part 1)
When the CF18 entered Canadian service in 1984, it represented the state-of-the- art in fighter design. It was
not the fastest fighter aircraft, nor the largest or most capable. Yet the Hornet and its systems
combined all the features most desired by the CF. The CF18 was an ideal compromise between the performance
needed by the Air Force and the affordability demanded by the government and citizens. But, times change and
aircraft age. The Hornet fleet was in need of updating.
DND's long hoped-for CF18 upgrade finally materialized in the summer of 2000. The Chrétien
government, having realized surpluses after its tight budgets of the 1990s, finally consented to put money
back into DND coffers. CF Air Command had many modernization plans for the CF18. DND's whole
program includes new capabilities for air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, improved communications and data
link, and an upgrade to the CF18 sensor and defensive suite.
Incremental — the I in the CF18 IMP
The entire CF18 modernization program is to be completed in different phases, over a number of years. The
ultimate goal is to keep the CF18 effective at least until 2020. This Incremental Modernization Program is
reportedly worth $1.8B for the complete updating of 80 of Canada's 121 remaining Hornets. The
major modifications of the CF18 IMP are described in detail below.
Modernization Plan ... or ... What the heck is an ECP 583, anyhow?
For the first phase of the Hornet modifications, Boeing was selected as the prime contractor.
Boeing's Engineering Change Proposal 583 (ECP 583) is the largest of part of DND's CF18 modernization
program at around $900M. The ECP 583 will essentially bring the older CF18s (equivalent to F/A-18A and F/A-18B
standard) up to current F/A-18C and F/A-18D configuration. ECP 583 forms the foundation from which the other
upgrades in the CF18's modernization program will be built.
 Some tentative steps toward the CF18 IMP had been made in November 1998. $68M was approved for new
flight program software and mission computers. The official 'Phase One' of the IMP is budgeted at
$880M. DND intends to partly fund the IMP by selling off 40+ unmodernized CF18s considered 'surplus'.
The Czechs expressed interest. No doubt others, including current Hornet users, will follow.
 Boeing had purchased McDonnell Douglas, inheriting the F/A-18 production line and upgrade programs.
DND was able to take advantage of a current upgrade program of 'first generation' Hornets for
the USN, Marine Corps, and Australia.