The Role of Canada's CF-18 Fighter Fleet


November 22, 2016 – Ottawa – Government of Canada

Canada requires a fighter aircraft to contribute to the safety and security of Canadians and protect the sovereignty of one of the largest expanses of airspace in the world.  Our fighter aircraft give the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) the flexibility required to meet the various tasks set by Government, specifically:

Defence of Canada: The primary role for CF-18s is to protect Canadian sovereignty. Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, the CF-18 fleet maintains a constant state of alert, ready to respond immediately to potential threats along Canada’s 200,000 km of coastline. The Canadian Armed Forces also use the aircraft to provide air policing during significant events in Canada: for example, CF-18s were heard over British Columbia, where they provided around the clock support to the 2010 Olympic Games, and most recently over Ottawa during the Three Amigos meetings in June 2016.

Continental Defence: Canada has a bi-national obligation under the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) treaty with the United States to help defend North American airspace. Since 2001, NORAD aircraft have conducted over 1,800 intercepts of non-military aircraft of concern because they were unresponsive or could not be identified. No other CAF asset, alone or in combination, can substitute for the critical role of an airborne interceptor.

Missions Abroad: The fighter fleet gives the Government foreign policy options in an increasingly complex global security environment. Moreover, a fighter element is the fastest-responding capability. 

Examples of CF-18 Operations

Canada's first operational deployment of the CF-18 took place during the Gulf War in the early 1990s, when Canada sent 24 CF-18s to Qatar to participate in the American-led Desert Shield and Desert Storm campaigns. Similarly, Canada deployed 18 CF-18s to Italy to take part in the Kosovo campaign in 1999.

In 2011, they played a vital role during Operation MOBILE, as part of a NATO-led effort to enforce an arms embargo and no-fly zone to protect civilians in Libya in support of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973. Seven CF-18s made up Task Force Libeccio, conducting 946 missions, 10 percent of NATO strike sorties, and dropping 696 bombs of various types to engage military assets threatening the civilian population. In 2014, CF-18s helped patrol European skies alongside NATO partners, building confidence in Europe’s stability and security through Op REASSURANCE. And from 2014 until February 2016, Canada’s fighter fleet deployed to Kuwait in support of the allied coalition to fight the atrocities of Daesh in Iraq, and also later in Syria as well.

Today, working alongside American partners, Canada has crews ready to respond on behalf of NORAD to protect North American airspace.

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