First CF-18 enters the fleet

July 31, 2019 by Sharon Adams

A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 flies on a mission over Iraq during Operation Impact in 2015.
Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/Wikimedia
A huge red carpet cut in the shape of a maple leaf lay on a runway in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 28, 1982.

Test pilot Jack Krings landed, then taxied a CF-18 Hornet onto that carpet, stopping just a few metres from the reviewing stand where General Ramsey M. Withers, Canada’s chief of the defence staff, was seated.

It was the first of 138 Hornets ordered from McDonnell Douglas to replace the Canadian Forces’ fleet of CF-101 Voodoos and CF-104 Starfighters.

Since its maiden test flight in 1978, Krings had put the supersonic fighter through its paces. He broke Mach 1.6 and pushed to an altitude of 13,000 metres for the flight to St. Louis. The machine is capable of Mach 1.8—that’s 2,223 kilometres per hour at 12,200 metres.

The first Hornets arrived at CFB Cold Lake in Alberta in October 1982, and were soon flying interception duties, their 3,700-kilometre range and sophisticated radar system particularly suited for sovereignty patrols in the Arctic.

The versatile aircraft has been used by the RCAF as a fighter-bomber, for tactical support, aerobatic demonstration and aerospace testing. From 2001 to 2010, avionics, radio, radar and weaponry and targeting systems were upgraded.

In 1991, Canadian pilots conducted more than 2,700 combat patrol missions and 56 bombing sorties in the two dozen CF-18s committed to the first Persian Gulf War. Canadian CF-18s supported peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, completed bombing missions in former Yugoslavia, participated in missions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and in 2014 joined NATO patrols over Europe.

And they patrol over the United States and Canada, and “maintain a constant state of alert to safeguard North American skies,” says the RCAF website.

No CF-18s have been lost in combat, although over the years a score have crashed, killing at least 10 pilots.

In 2018, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced plans to buy 88 new fighter jets and begin replacing the CF-18s over the next decade.

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