Canada approved to buy 50 Sidewinder AIM-9X Block II missiles for CF-18 Hornets

Until the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) makes a decision on its next generation of fighter aircraft, it’ll have to rely on its aging fleet of classic McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornets, known in Canada as the CF-18.

Until the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) makes a decision on its next generation of fighter aircraft, it’ll have to rely on its aging fleet of classic McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornets, known in Canada as the CF-18.

To keep those fighter aircraft relevant for air-to-air combat in the 21st Century, Ottawa has requested and was approved by the US State Department to buy 50 examples of the Raytheon Sidewinder AIM-9X Block II missile, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency says on 16 June.

RCAF CF-18

Source: Royal Canadian Air Force

RCAF CF-18

As part of the Hornet Extension Programme, Canada is approved to purchase the air-to-air missiles, plus related equipment, and additional CF-18 upgrades for $832 million. The package also includes 10 Sidewinder training missiles, 38 Raytheon APG-79(V)4 active electronically scanned array radar units, 20 Raytheon Joint Standoff Weapons, and the installation of an Automated Ground Collision Avoidance System on an unspecified number of CF-18s, among other items.

“This sale will provide Canada a two-squadron bridge of enhanced F/A-18A aircraft to continue meeting [North American Aerospace Defense Command] (NORAD) and NATO commitments while it gradually introduces new advanced aircraft via the Future Fighter Capability [Project] between 2025 and 2035,” says the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

Canada is hosting the Future Fighter Capability Project to pick an advanced jet to replace its CF-18 Hornets. The country wants to buy 88 fighter aircraft. Three companies are offering aircraft for the programme: Saab is offering the Gripen E; Lockheed Martin is offering the F-35; and Boeing is offering the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

A contract for the fighter programme is anticipated in 2022, with the first aircraft to be delivered by 2025, the RCAF has said.

Canada plays a critical role in NORAD, a joint airspace warning and protection partnership between Ottawa and Washington. The country’s northern location means it is well positioned to detect and intercept missiles, fighters and bomber aircraft flying over the top of the world should there ever be a Russian attack on North America.