Boeing shows off 14-missile-spiked Super Hornets in official Canadian sales pitch


Boeing has officially submitted its Block III F / A-18E / F Super Hornet to the Royal Canadian Air Force for competition to select its next fighter jet. The company has also released Concept Art for the configuration it offers Canadians, which shows planes fitted with compliant fuel tanks, equipped with an infrared search and runway-following sensor, and armed with an impressive 12 AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to -Air missiles and a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders at close range. Lockheed Martin is also competing with its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Saab has presented its Gripen E.

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) hopes to receive 88 new fighter jets to replace its existing CF-18A / B + Hornets as part of what is officially known as the Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP). Canada’s Department of Public Services and Procurement announced that it had received the three formal proposals on July 31, 2020. The final contract could be worth between C $ 15 billion and C $ 19 billion, or approximately C $ 11.2 billion. dollars and nearly 14.2 billion US dollars at present conversion rates.

“We have a partnership with Canada that spans over 100 years,” said Jim Barnes, director of fighter sales in Canada at Boeing Defense, Space & Security, in a statement regarding his company’s bid. “The Super Hornet is the most cost effective and efficient option for the FFCP, and a selection of Super Hornets will help the RCAF meet its mission needs.

Boeing’s press release does not highlight any specific features of the Super Hornets it offers to the RCAF, but, as noted, the concept art shows jets with Compliant Fuel Tanks (CFTs). CFTs are a key part of the Block III Super Hornet, which the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer first developed for the US Navy and which you can read more about in this past. War zone room.

The firm has pointed out in the past how CFTs would fit well with Canada’s requirements for its jet fighter fleets, which include major air defense mission packages under the United States-Canadian Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). and operations from Europe. The extra fuel gives the jets extra range and allows them to stay on the station longer without the burden of drop tanks which also take up hard spots under the wings that could be used for weapons or other stores. One of Boeing’s concept art aircraft also features an in-flight refueling store, which would allow RCAF Super Hornets to refuel in-flight. This could help expand the ability of patrolling aircraft to stay aloft.

The search and tracking infrared sensor (IRST), which is built into a modified drop tank that the aircraft can carry to its central station, is another Super Hornet upgrade that the US Navy has been working on for years. now and about which you can read more in this recent War zone functionality. The IRST system provides an invaluable additional tool for locating and tracking targets, including stealth aircraft, at extended distances that are also immune to electronic warfare interference.


Concept art Boeing released announcing its submission of a rpoposal for the FFCP competition. The aircraft in the foreground carries an infrared search and track sensor in a modified drop tank.

The Super Hornets would also be equipped with Active Electronic Scanning Radar (AESA) which would also offer improved target detection and capabilities, especially compared to existing RCAF Hornets. Last month, the U.S. government actually approved the potential sale of an upgrade package for the CF-18A / B + that would include their retrofitting with AESA AN / APG-79 (V) 4 radars.

That eventual deal also included a bundle of AIM-9Xs, which are not currently in Canada’s inventory, but that’s another item Boeing highlighted when announcing its Super Hornet offer for the RCAF. These Sidewinders are still receiving upgrades that increasingly make them a longer-range all-rounder rather than just an air combat missile, as you can read more about in this precedent. War zone story.

Overall, Boeing concept art shows serious air-to-air load overall, including five AIM-120s under each wing and two more on the aircraft’s fuselage stations on the sides of the jacks. air from the engine, representing approximately between 12 and 13 million dollars of weapons. only. Canadians had previously expressed interest in purchasing AIM-120D missiles, the most advanced version of AMRAAM to date, which would be a perfect fit for these new aircraft.

Boeing, which for a time appeared to be shut out of the Canadian fighter competition due to a tangential trade dispute, may actually have a head start in the competition due to its long experience of working with the ARC and its CF-18A / B +. fleet. The company’s offer is to “leverage existing infrastructure to reduce the cost of maintaining the aircraft in the long term,” Barnes, director of fighter sales in Canada, added in his statement. This is true as there is a vast commonality between the Hornet heritage and the Super Hornet that goes far beyond hardware. Training and sustainment, in particular, benefit from substantial continuity between the two types.

Canadian forces

Still, the Super Hornet offering is expected to face significant competition for the final contract, especially from Lockheed Martin’s F-35. Canada is already a member of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, which has created unusual but serious complications for the FFCP. Canadian authorities had planned to purchase 65 of these jets before the Liberal Party government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau abandoned the deal after coming to power in 2015. The Canadian Department of National Defense subsequently agreed to purchase 25 ex-Royal Australian Air Force F / A -18A / B Hornets as an interim option, after a plan to purchase 18 new F / A-18E / F Super Hornets from Boeing collapsed in 2017.

“We are extremely proud of our long-standing partnership with Canada, which has played a key role in the development of the F-35,” said Greg Ulmer, executive vice president of the F-35 program at Lockheed Martin, in a statement. communicated. “The 5th Generation F-35 would transform the Royal Canadian Air Force fleet and provide the capabilities necessary to protect Canadian skies. The F-35’s unique blend of stealth technology and sensors will enable the Royal Canadian Air Force to modernize its contribution to NORAD operations, secure sovereignty in the Arctic and respond to increasingly sophisticated global threats. ”

Concept art that Lockheed Martin released with its proposal notably shows variants of the F-35A with an optional drag chute installed on top of the rear fuselage. Lockheed Martin first developed this function for the Norwegian F-35A, which aims to facilitate landings on runways covered with snow or ice. The RCAF similarly operates from bases located in areas where these weather conditions, as well as extremely low ambient temperatures, are common. Oddly, however, Canadian officials have previously said they will not conduct cold weather testing on any of the FFCP entrants and instead rely on data already collected in assessments by other countries.

Lockheed Martin

Concept art that Lockheed Martin released accompanying its announcement to compete to supply the next RCAF fighter jet that shows three F-35As equipped with optional drag drops.

Saab’s Gripen E is certainly more of a dark horse contender. The Swedish airline has promoted important potential industrial cooperation as a key part of Gripen’s offerings to Canada and to other potential buyers.

” The system [Gripen E] meets all of Canada’s specific defense requirements, delivering exceptional performance and advanced technical capabilities, ”said Jonas Hjelm, senior vice president and head of Saab’s Aerospace business line, in a statement. A guarantee to share key technology, domestic production, support and lifelong improvements will ensure that Canada’s sovereignty is strengthened for decades to come. ”


Gripen was designed to operate very efficiently in severe conditions by small crews in cold climates, which Canada might find attractive.

The Canadian authorities hope to choose the winner of the FFCP competition in 2022. The goal is to land the first new fighter plane in the country in 2025.

The competition for who will supply Canada’s next fighter jet already looks set to be fierce in the years to come.

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