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McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet

Multirole Jet-Powered Fighter Aircraft

McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet

Multirole Jet-Powered Fighter Aircraft


The Royal Canadian Air Force makes use of over 100 American FA-18 Hornet fighters as the CF-18 Hornet.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: Canada
YEAR: 1983
STATUS: Active, In-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): McDonnell Douglas / Boeing - USA

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
CREW: 1 or 2
LENGTH: 56.00 feet (17.07 meters)
WIDTH: 40.39 feet (12.31 meters)
HEIGHT: 15.29 feet (4.66 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 23,049 pounds (10,455 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 51,588 pounds (23,400 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x General Electric F404-GE-400 afterburning turbofan engines developing 16,000lb of thrust each.
SPEED (MAX): 1,128 miles-per-hour (1815 kilometers-per-hour; 980 knots)
RANGE: 2,069 miles (3,330 kilometers; 1,798 nautical miles)
CEILING: 49,213 feet (15,000 meters; 9.32 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 50,000 feet-per-minute (15,240 meters-per-minute)


1 x 20mm M61A1 Vulcan internal Gatling-style cannon
2 x AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles on wingtip launchers.

External stores across nine hardpoints up to 13,700lb to include:

AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles
AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles
AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range air-to-air missiles
AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles
Rocket Pods
Laser- / Precision-guided drop bombs
Conventional drop bombs
External fuel tanks (jettisonable)
Special mission pods (as needed)

Series Model Variants
• CF-18A - Single-seat all-weather multirole strike fighter
• CF-18B - Twin-seat training variant
• CF-188A - Official Canadian Air Force designation for CF-18A models.


Detailing the development and operational history of the McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet Multirole Jet-Powered Fighter Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 11/1/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The CF-18 / CF-188 "Hornet" is the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) equivalent of the American McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 "Hornet" single-seat, carrier-based 4th Generation Fighter. Like others, Canada elected to adopted the naval-minded Hornet as a land-based fighter and took deliveries of 138 of the modern aircraft between 1982 and 1988. The aircraft were formally introduced in USN service during 1983 and became a fixture of several national Western air powers since. The McDonnell Douglas name now falls under the Boeing brand label as its subsidiary following the 1997 merger between the two former rivals.

Up to this point in Canadian history, the RCAF relied on a mix of aged and out-going American-designed fighters used to fulfill NORAD, NATO, and local defense commitments. This gave rise to a standardization measure which sought to adopt an "all-in-one" solution to fulfill all of these required roles. The Canadian government defense program that followed became the aptly-titled "New Fighter Aircraft (NFA) program with the primary requirement being that the RCAF select an existing fighter mount. This led to the usual suspects of the time being interviewed (F-14, F-15, Mirage F1, etc...) until there remained just the General Dynamics F-16 "Fighting Falcon" and the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 "Hornet". These aircraft originally arose out of a USAF endeavor to secure a new lightweight fighter design with the service eventually selecting the F-16 for serial production (over the competing Northrop YF-17 "Cobra", forerunner to the finalized F/A-18 Hornet of the USN). The Hornet was selected by the United States Navy.

This left the F/A-18 as the winner of the NFA program in 1980 for its inherent qualities - including its approachable procurement tag. It was a twin-engine design unlike the F-16 which aided in survivability and could carry a broad air-to-air and air-to-surface war load (including mixed loads) while operating in cold weather and over-water environments. The AGP-65 radar suite was a capable system which offered tracking and engagement of targets above and below the aircraft over variable terrain. The Canadian government moved on ordering the type through its two primary guises - the single-seat fighter with strike capability and the twin-seat fighter (retaining full combat capability) to be used in training its RCAF airmen. The RCAF took on 98 of the former and 40 of the latter under the formal RCAF designation of "CF-188".

With its carrier origins - and despite the Canadians using it in a land-based role - the CF-18 retained its folding wings and arrestor hook which still managed to play well into the compact/short-field operating mentality. All models featured a false canopy painted along the underside of the nose section to trick an enemy - if only for a second - as to the exact position/attack angle of the Canadian fighter during close-in work. What effect this has/had in actual air-to-air combat is debatable but it was a feature nonetheless adopted by a few others (including the USMC). One other RACF addition was a night identification light added to the portside of the nose. In all other ways, the CF-18 was largely the same aircraft featured in the American inventory and elsewhere.

The first CF-18s in service were two examples delivered to 410 Squadron (training) of CFB Cold Lake during October of 1982. First RCAF combat actions were during the 1991 Gulf War of which twenty-six models participated in. The aircraft was then used as part of the U.N. action over the former Yugoslavia and strengthened coalition numbers. CF-18s flew security patrols during the 2010 Olympic games and - more recently - were deployed over Libya in 2011 as part of the U.N.'s enforced No-Fly Zone over the oil-rich African nation.

Due to their 1980s roots, CF-18s were forced into modernization during their service lives to help keep them viable aircraft for the foreseeable future. Additionally, technological advancements adopted by major U.N. players also forced the Canadians to stay compatible with the rest of the NATO forces. By the end of it all, CF-18s (like their American Hornet counterparts) were given the APG-73 radar set to replace their original APG-65 series and this opened the line to carrying and launching the advanced AIM-120 medium-range air-to-air missile family. Navigation, avionics, digital processing, and battlefield situational awareness were all upgraded for the better. Improvements were handled by Boeing and resulted in the first modernized CF-18 being handed over to the RCAF in 2007 with the last aircraft being completed in 2010.

Due to the fleet's age and operational/accident attrition (only about 103 CF-18s remain of the original 138 received), the Canadians plan to phase out their current fleet of CF-18s heading into the 2020s. Its eventually replacement is still up-in-the-air - the primary product is the Lockheed "F-35 Lightning II" 5th Generation Fighter (to be adopted as the "CF-35A") though growing delays and ballooning costs in the Lockheed product may very well push the Canadians in an altogether different direction despite Canada being an active participant in the F-35 development program. The RCAF may settle for a 4.5th Generation Fighter - either American or European in origin if the F-35 endeavor fails to produce the required fruits for the Canadians.


September 2014 - It was announced that the Canadian military will seek to extend the service life of their CF-18s into 2025, delaying a decision on the purchase of the Lockheed F-35 Lighting II. The government will, however, continue its support of development of the Lockheed product for the foreseeable future.

2016 - A formal initiative to find a successor to the CF-18 fleet has been launched by Canadian authorities.

October 2018 - Canada has official sent out a Request For Proposal to the usual Western fighter producers to find a successor to their aging line of CF-18s. This includes Boeing, Dassault, Eurofighter, Lockheed, and Saab. This means possible contenders are the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Lockheed F-35 Lightning II, and the Saab JAS 39 Gripen.

General Assessment (BETA)

Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
MF Power Rating (BETA)
The MF Power Rating takes into account over sixty individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of 100 total possible points.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 1200mph
Lo: 600mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (1,128mph).

    Graph average of 900 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the McDonnell Douglas CF-18 Hornet's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Supported Arsenal
Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of a medium-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of an aircraft Gatling-style rotating gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft air-to-surface missile
Graphical image of an aircraft rocket pod
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft external fuel tank
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.