Canada To Upgrade Hornets with AESA Radar, Following the USMC

Canada will upgrade 36 of its CF-18A Hornets with active electronically scanned-array (AESA) AN/APG-79(V)4 radars in a $140 million contract announced on the 20th by the United State’s Department of Defense (DoD). 

CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft from 409 Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta refuel in the air during Exercise Vigilant Eagle 13 on Aug. 28, 2013. (Photo: Cpl. Vicky Lefrancois, DAirPA)

A contract notice released by the DoD specifies that work on the contract is expected to be completed by March 2024. Work will be performed in Mississippi, California, Massachusetts and Texas. In addition to the 36 radars, the contract also includes provisions for software and engineering support related to the integration effort. 

The AN/APG-79 was originally designed to equip the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and has since been outfitted onto the E/A-18G Growlers operated by the United States Navy (USN) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The AN/APG-79(V)4 is a downscaled version of the AN/APG-79 designed to be outfitted on older model “classic” Hornets such as the United States Marine Corps (USMC) F/A-18C. In 2019, the USMC announced plans to upgrade nearly 100 F/A-18C Hornets with the AN/APG-79(V)4.    

The announcement comes as Canada’s Justin Trudeau is reelected for a third term. In 2015, upon being elected to office, Trudeau’s Liberal government cancelled a planned purchase of the type in favour of a competition between different types, including the Saab Gripen, Boeing Super Hornet and Lockheed F-35. A decision on the future of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is expected later this year or early in 2022. 

A KC-135 crew from the 465th Air Refueling Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, completes an aerial refueling of a Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet July 11, 2016 in support of Rim of the Pacific 2016.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Grady Epperly)

In the meantime, however, the Canadian government seems bound to continue to upgrade the venerable CF-18 Hornets that it first acquired in the 1980s.

Two F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft fly over the Alaska Canada Highway en route to their new home at the 354th Fighter Wing, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, April 21, 2020. The F-35 represents a new model of international cooperation, ensuring U.S. and Coalition partner security well into the 21st Century. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Adam Keele)