In 1982, the Canadian government purchased 125 McDonnell-Douglas CF-18 Hornets to replace the obsolescent CF-101 Voodoos and CF-104 Starfighters. The Hornet is a supersonic tactical fighter capable of carrying a variety of weapons including Sidewinder and Sparrow air-to-air missiles, bombs, and rockets for ground attack missions.
Three CF-18 squadrons of 18 were deployed to Europe in 1985 to replace the CF-104s of 1 Canadian Air Group at Baden-Solingen, Germany:
- 409 (Night Hawk) Squadro.
- 439 (Tiger) Squadro.
- 421 (Red Indian) Squadron
The role of the air group remained the same as it had since the introduction of the CF-104 in the early 1960s, interdiction deep inside the Soviet Union. Since 1972, of course, this task had been performed with conventional rather than nuclear munitions, a transition that required that the Starfighters undergo minor modifications to accept convention weapons. In 1988, at the very height of the Cold War, 1st Canadian Air Division was reinstituted. Canada at that time dropped a commitment to provide two squadrons to support the ACE Mobile Force in Norway. Instead, these two squadrons, 416 (Lynx) from Cold Lake, and 433 (Porcupine) from Bagotville, would deploy to Germany in event of hostilities. When in Germany they were to be based in Lahr, a location where hardened aircraft shelters awaited them. The CF-18s are currently organized into one training squadron and four tactical fighter squadrons stationed at two Canadian Forces Bases (CFBs):
- 410 (Cougar) (Operational Training) Squadron, CFB Cold Lake, Alberta: 15 CF-18.
- 416 (Lynx) Squadron, CFB Cold Lake, Alberta: 15 CF-18.
- 441 (Silver Fox) Squadron, CFB Cold Lake, Alberta: 15 CF-18.
- 425 (Alouette) Squadron, CFB Bagotville, Quebec: 15 CF-18.
- 433 (Porcupine) Squadron, CFB Bagotville, Quebec: 15 CF-18s
The CF-18s can be employed to support maritime and ground operations. Two squadrons are available for contingency operations anywhere in the world. One CF-18 squadron was deployed from 1 Canadian Air Division in Germany and took part in United Nations Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991. Canadian-based CF-18s participated in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) air operations in support of the Dayton Accord that brought the Bosnian civil war to an end. Canada also took part in the NATO air offensive against Yugoslavia in 1999.