Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Canadian Warplanes 6: Jets, McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet

Canadian Warplanes, Jets, 

McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet

Data current to 15 Nov 2019.

 (Staff Sgt Perry Ashton, USAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet over Iraq, 4 Mar 2015.

The McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet (official military designation CF-188) is an RCAF (formerly Canadian Forces Air Command) fighter aircraft, based on the American McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighter.  In 1980, the F/A-18 was selected as the winner of the New Fighter Aircraft Project competition, and a production order was awarded.  The Canadian Forces began receiving the CF-18 in 1982.  CF-18s have supported NORAD air sovereignty patrols and participated in combat during the Gulf War in 1991, the Kosovo War in the late 1990s, and as part of the Canadian contribution to the international Libyan no-fly zone in 2011.  CF-18s were also part of the Canadian contribution to the military intervention against ISIL, Operation Impact.  (Wikipedia)

McDonnell Douglas/Northrop Model 267A, CF-188, CF-18A Hornet (98) single-seat (Serial Nos. 188701-188798), Model 267 B, CF-188B , CF-18B Hornet (40) two-seat (Serial Nos. 188901-188940), for a total of 138 aircraft.

 (DND Archives Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188A Hornet swarm.

  (RCAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188A Hornet (Serial No. 188749).

 (TSgt Jason Robertson, USAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188A Hornets in service with the RCAF.

(Vic Johnson, RCAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188A Hornet, No. 409 Squadron, CFB Baden-Soellingen with a war load over Southern Germany, 18 Aug 1987.  It was flown by Capt Doug Stroud.

 (USAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188A Hornet from Cold Lake, Alberta, intercepting a Russian Tupolev Tu-95 Bear long-range bomber on 5 Sep 2007.   The pilot was Captain Riel Erickson, who was the first female fighter pilot to intercept a Bear.

 (USAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188A Hornet formation.

 (SSgt Jennifer C. Wallis, USAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188A Hornets, Aviano, Italy.

 (LCol. Tim Pfeifer, USAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet launching laser-guided bomb.

 (DND Photo via James Craik)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornets over Hohenzollern Castle, Germany ca 1990.

(SSgt. Greg L. Davis, USAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188B Hornet, RCAF (Serial No. 188934).

(CAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188B Hornet, RCAF (Serial No. 188917), 425 Sqn air refuelling off Eglin, Florida, 2005.

 (Alain Rioux Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188B Hornet, RCAF (Serial No. 188901), preserved in the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Ontario.

 (Staff Sgt Perry Ashton, USAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet over Iraq, 4 Mar 2015.

(DND Photo via Mike Kaehler)

 (DND Photo via Mike Kaehler)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet, RCAF (Serial No. 188718), wearing the 1999 75th Anniversary of the RCAF paint scheme.  This aircraft was apparently scrapped at Mirabel, Quebec in 2017.

 (Krystal Wilson Photos)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet, RCAF (Serial No. 188776), painted to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of NORAD, April 2018.

 (CF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet, RCAF (Serial No. 188781), painted to commemorate the 1994 anniversary of D Day scheme.

McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet data bank:

            The CF-188 Hornet is a lightweight multi-mission twin-engine jetfighter powered by a pair of General Electric F404-GE-400 turbofans.  It is equipped with nine external weapon stations and can carry a combined capacity of 17,000 pounds of mixed ordnance at high G, including AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.  It is armed with an M61 20mm six-barrel gun with 570 rounds mounted in the nose.  The first Hornet was delivered to the CF on 25 October 1982, and the last fighter was delivered in 1988.

            In 1977, the Canadian government identified the need to replace the NATO assigned Canadair CF-104 Starfighter, the NORAD assigned McDonnell CF-101B Voodooand the Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighter, although the decision was later made to keep the CF-116.  The subsequent decision was to proceed with the New Fighter Aircraft competition (NFA), with a purchase budget of around C$2.4 billion to purchase 130-150 of the winner of the competition.  Candidates included the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, Panavia Tornado, Dassault Mirage F1 (later replaced by the Dassault Mirage 2000), plus the products of the American Lightweight Fighter (LWF) competition, the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet, and a de-navalized version of the Hornet, the F-18L.  The government stressed that the winner of the competition be a proven off-the-shelf design and provide substantial industrial benefits as part of the order.

            By 1978, the New Fighter Aircraft competitors were short listed to just two aircraft; the F-16 Falcon and the two F-18 offerings.  The F-14, F-15, and the Tornado were rejected due to the high purchase price, while Dassault dropped out of the competition.  The F-18L combined the systems and twin-engine layout of the F-18 that Air Command favoured with a lighter land-based equipment setup that significantly improved performance.  However, Northrop, the primary contractor for the F-18L version, had not built the aircraft by the time of the NFA program, waiting on successful deals before doing so.  Additionally, while Northrop offered the best industrial offset package, it would only “pay off” if other F-18L orders were forthcoming; something DND was not willing to bet on.

            However, the F-14 almost entered Canadian service through the backdoor due to the Iranian Revolution.  In the aftermath of the revolution, the US cut off all military supplies to Iran, which meant that their new fleet of F-14s would be potentially rendered unflyable due to a lack of spares. The Canadians offered to purchase them at a steeply discounted price. However, the negotiations died before a deal was reached as it was revealed that Canadian involvement was instrumental for the smuggling of American embassy personnel out of the new Islamic Republic.

            In 1980, the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet was declared the winner of the New Fighter Aircraft competition.  The order included 98 single-seat variants and 40 dual-seat variants, for a total of 138 purchased, plus 20 options (which were not exercised).  The F/A-18 Hornet was then dubbed the CF-188 (the name Hornet not being used as the translation in French is “Frelon”, which is already used by a French military helicopter).  However, in every context except the most official of military documents, the planes are referred to as CF-18 Hornets.  Reasons for the selection listed by the Canadian Forces were many of its requested features were included for the US Navy; two engines for reliability (considered essential for conducting Arctic sovereignty and over-the-water patrols), an excellent radar set, while being considerably more affordable than the F-14 and the F-15.

            The most visible difference between a CF-18 and a US F-18 is the 600,000 candela night identification light.  This spotlight is mounted in the gun loading door on the port side of the aircraft.  Some CF-18s have the light temporarily removed, but the window is always in place.  Also, the underside of the CF-18 features a painted “dummy canopy”.  This is intended to disorient and confuse an enemy in air-to-air combat.  Subsequently the US Marine Corps Aviation F/A-18 Hornet also features this “dummy canopy.”

Many features that made the F/A-18 suitable for naval carrier operations were also retained by the Canadian Forces, such as the robust landing gear, the arrestor hook, and wing-folding mechanisms, which proved useful when operating the fighters from smaller airfields such as those found in the Arctic.

            On 28 June 2004, Capt Derek Nichols, age 34, from Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, a Canadian Forces pilot serving on exchange with the United States Marine Corps, died from injuries sustained when his F/A-18 Hornet aircraft crashed on landing at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort, South Carolina.  He had been on exchange with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, “The Crusaders”, in Beaufort, since July 2001.  The single seat aircraft was among several F/A-18s returning from Denmark where they had participated in NATO Exercise Clean Hunter 04.  Canada currently has about 100 Canadian Forces members serving on exchange with the U.S. military.  (Internet: http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/news-nouvelles/view-news-afficher-nouvelles-eng.asp?id=1403)

            The first two CF-18s were formally handed over to 410 (Operational Training Unit) Squadron at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta on 25 October 1982.  Further deliveries equipped 409 Squadron, 439 Squadron, and 421 Squadron at Baden-Soellingen in then West Germany, the 410 Operation Training Unit, 416 Squadron, and 441 Squadron at Cold Lake, and 425 Squadron at Bagotville, Québec.  However, introduction into Canadian service was initially problematic due to early issues with structural fatigue which delayed initial deployment. As the initial bugs were worked out, the CF-18 started filling the NORAD interception and NATO roles as intended.

            In 1991, Canada committed 26 CF-18s to the Gulf War on Operation Friction.  The CF-18s were based in Doha, Qatar.  During the Gulf War, Canadian pilots flew 5,700+ hours, including 2,700 combat air patrol missions. These aircraft were taken from Canada’s airbase in Germany, CFB Baden-Soellingen (now a civilian airport).  In the beginning the CF-18s began sweep and escort combat missions to support ground-attack strikes by Allied air forces.  However, during the 100-hour Allied ground invasion in late February, CF-18s also flew 56 bombing sorties, mainly dropping 500 lb (230 kg) conventional (“dumb”) bombs on Iraqi artillery positions, supply dumps, and marshalling areas behind the lines.  At the time the Canadian Hornets were unable to deploy precision guided munitions (PGMs).

            Continuing violence in the Former Yugoslavia Republic (FYR) brought CF-18s into theatre twice: first for a three-month deployment (Op Mirador, August–November 1997) for air patrols supporting NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and again from late June 1998 until late December 2000 (Op Echo).

            In June 1999, with 18 CF-18s already deployed to Aviano, Italy, Canada participated in both the air-to-ground and air-to-air roles.  Canadian aircraft conducted 10 percent of the NATO strike sorties despite deploying a much smaller percentage of the overall forces.  Canadian pilots flew 678 combat sorties - 120 defensive counter-air escorts for Allied strike packages and 558 bombing strikes during 2,577 combat flying hours.  CF-18s dropped a total of 397 PGMs and 171 free-fall iron bombs on a wide variety of targets including surface-to-air missile sites, airfields, bridges and fuel storage areas.

            The need to upgrade the CF-18 became necessary as demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm and during the 1998 Kosovo conflict as advances in technology had rendered some of the avionics on board the CF-18 obsolete and out of step when operating with NATO allies.  In 2000, CF-18 upgrades became possible when the government decided to increase the defence budget.  Then in 2001, the military initiated a major modernization program for the CF-18 dubbed the CF-18 Incremental Modernization Project (IMP).

            In 2001 the Incremental Modernization Project (IMP) was begun.  The project was broken into two phases over a period of seven years and is meant to improve air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities, upgrade sensors and the defensive suite, and replace the datalinks and communications systems on board the CF-18 from the old F/A-18A and F/A-18B standard to the current F/A-18C and D standard.  Boeing (merged with McDonnell Douglas) the primary contractor and L-3 Communications the primary subcontractor, was then issued a contract for the modernization project starting in 2002. A total of 80 CF-18s, consisting of 62 single-seat and 18 dual-seat models were selected from the fleet for the upgrade program.  The project is supposed to extend the life of the CF-18 until 2017–2020, by which time a replacement should be in place.

            As of March 2009, 72 CF-18As and 31 CF-18Bs are in operational use.  Planned allocation is two operational squadrons of 24 aircraft each, with the remaining 33 available for training, testing and evaluation at AETE, and depot level maintenance.  Of the 48 aircraft in operational squadrons, 34 (70%) are normally mission-ready on a daily basis.  The Canadian Forces expect the Hornet to maintain front-line status until 2017 to 2020, and also expect losses at an average rate of one aircraft every two years.  In 2003, a Hornet cost US$35 million.  (Internet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CF-18_Hornet)

McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornets on display include:

CF-188 Hornet (Serial No. 188702), on display at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta.  This aircraft was taken on strength 13 July 1983.  Equivalent to F-18A-10-MC when delivered.  It flew with No. 410 and No. 409 Squadrons in the 1980s and 1990s, dates not known.  It was reported as serving with No. 410 Squadron in February 1995.

F/A-18A Hornet (Serial No. 160778), on display at the Base Borden Military Museum (BBMM), CFB Borden, Ontario.  This Hornet was donated by USN.  It was the initial USN production model used for instruction at CFB Borden. 

F/A-18 Hornet (Serial No. 13319), former USN, is with CFSATE, CFB Borden, Ontario.

CF-188B Hornet (Serial No. 188901), the first two-seat model, is with the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (CASM, Ottawa, Ontario. 

CF-188B Hornet (Serial No. 188911) is with the National Air Force Museum of Canada (NAFMC), CFB Trenton, Ontario.  

CF-188A Hornet (Serial No. 188720) is on display with the Air Defence Museum, CFB Bagotville, Saguenay, Québec.

CF-188A Hornet (Serial No. 188723) is on display at the Peterson Air and Space Museum, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

McDonnell Douglas CF-188 Hornet losses (19 and 10 pilots) to date:

CF-188A (Serial No. 188715), crashed near CFB Cold Lake, Alberta on 12 Apr 1984.  No. 410 (Cougar) Squadron Pilot Capt Gerald Craig Milligan was killed.

CF-188A (Serial No. 188737) crashed during a formation take-off at CFB Cold Lake on 4 Jun 1985.  No. 409 (Nighthawk) Squadron Pilot LCol D. Kenny ejected safely. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188717) crashed in shallow water off Malpeque Bay, Prince Edward Island, after take-off on 24 May 1986.  Pilot Capt Tristan Pierre Renée Thérèse L. De Koninck was killed. 

CF-188B (Serial No. 188919) crashed after going into a tailspin during test flight near Renchen, Germany on 4 May 1987.  1 CAG Pilot Capt Dean Besel and Capt Ken Gerhard ejected safely. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188721) crashed at CFB Bagotville after the left engine caught fire on take-off on 21 Sep 1987.  No. 425 (Alouette) Squadron Pilot Maj Mike Stacey ejected safely. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188761) operating out of RAF Alconbury, UK, skidded into a field and disintegrated after the pilot tried to abort during a formation take-off on 20 Oct 1987.  Pilot Capt D.A. Friedt ejected.  The aircraft was repaired and returned to service. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188773) crashed into a mountaintop at 10,000’ near Brooks Peninsula on Vancouver Island during a Search and Rescue mission on 5 Apr 1988.  No. 441 (Silver Fox) Squadron Pilot Capt Michael Richard Erikson was killed. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188704) crashed into frozen Siebert Lake, Alberta on an airlift support mission on 11 Jan 1989.  No. 410 (Cougar) Squadron Pilot Capt Walter William Niemi was killed. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188726) crashed during a -50°C night mission take-off from Inuvik, Northwest Territories on a cruise-missile intercept exercise on 29 Jan 1990.  No. 441 (Silver Fox) Squadron Capt Richard Corver died in the crash. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188792) crashed on the weapons test range on the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary on 4 Apr 1990.  The aircraft hit trees on a low-level target egress and there was no ejection.  No. 416 (Lynx) Squadron Pilot Capt Pierre Trottier was killed. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188765) and CF-188A (Serial No. 188779) were lost in a mid-air crash over Karlsruhe, Germany on 17 Apr 1990.  No. 439 (Sabre Toothed Tiger) Squadron Pilot Capt Reg Decoste was injured following his ejection and landing on a busy autobahn; Pilot Capt Timothy Kirk Leuty was killed when the wing of the other Hornet entered the cockpit section.

CF-188A (Serial No. 188772) crashed into the Pacific Ocean from high altitude during an exercise 30 km West of Vancouver Island on 22 Apr 1990.  No. 410 (Cougar) Squadron Pilot Capt Hollis Rutherford Tucker was killed. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188713) crashed during a training exercise near US Air National Guard Kingsley Field, Klamath Falls Oregon on 15 Jun 1995.  No. 441 (Silver Fox) Squadron Pilot Capt Alex Day ejected safely. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188714) crashed just east of Primrose Lake, Alberta on 5 Jul 1995.  No. 416 (Lynx) Squadron Pilot Capt Richard Blair Gordon was killed. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188768) crashed on take-off from Iqaluit, Nunavut on 14 Aug 1996.  The 3 Wing pilot ejected safely. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188732) crashed on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range during Exercise Maple Flag on 26 May 2003.  No. 416 (Lynx) Squadron Pilot Capt Kevin L. Naismith was killed. 

CF-188A.  CF-188A (Serial No. 188761) sustained damage after a No. 410 (Cougar) Squadron Pilot ejected when he was unable to stop his aircraft at Yellowknife, Northwest Territories on 19 Jun 2004.  The pilot sustained non-life threatening injuries.  The Pilot actually ejected while the aircraft was still on the runway, the aircraft came to a stop by itself without over running the runway and actually had to be shut down by response crews.  There was minimal damage and the aircraft was repaired, a new seat installed and put back in service.  It is flying today.

F/A-18C (Serial No. 164269DC-03).  On 28 Jun 2004, Capt Derek Nichols, a CF pilot serving on an exchange posting with the US Marines was killed in a crash.  Based out of VMFA-122, Capt Nichols was returning from taking part in a NATO exercise when his aircraft crashed due to mechanical failure.  His aircraft skidded off the runway and overturned following a 10-hour flight from Denmark to Savannah, Georgia, USA.   

CF-188A (Serial No. 188745) crashed during a training exercise 100 km Northeast of CFB Bagotville, Quebec on 16 Aug 2005.  The aircraft departed controlled flight during Basic Fighter Manoeuvres training and entered a flat spin.  No. 425 (Alouette) Squadron Pilot Capt Colin Marks ejected safely. 

CF-188A (Serial No. 188738) from 425 Squadron crashed on 23 Jul 2010 during a training run for the Alberta International Airshow at Lethbridge Airport.  No. 425 (Alouette) Squadron Pilot Capt Brian Bews ejected but sustained injuries.[4]  The pilot ejected after engine fail during a low speed high angle of attack pass.  The pilot became entangled in his parachute lines on touchdown, but was dragged by the wind into a group of Canadian Forces Parachute Team Sky Hawks demonstration jumpers who had been watching the fly past.  They are credited with stopping the pilot and applying immediate first aid.

CF-188A (Serial No. 188789) from CFB Cold Lake, Alberta, crashed in a field approximately 13 km Northwest of 4 Wing, CFB Cold Lake, on 17 Nov 2010.  The No. 409 (Nighthawk) Squadron Pilot Capt Darren Blakie, was blinded by snow while attempting to land at the Cold Lake base.  The pilot successfully ejected and parachuted and was taken to hospital on being recovered.

CF-188A (Serial No. 188747) from 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta, crashed inside the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range in Saskatchewan, not far from the Primrose Lake Evaluation Range, on 28 Nov 2016.  The No. 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron pilot, Capt Thomas McQueen, did not survive.  (Internet: http://www.ejection-history.org.uk/Aircraft_by_Type/CF-18/cf_18_hornet.htm)