Every year, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and their CF-18 Hornet Demo Team paint their air show jet in a special livery, and 2018 is no exception. In recent years paint jobs have included a Tiger design, a giant Maple Leaf honoring Canada’s 150th birthday, and designs honoring the history of various RCAF squadrons (such as the “millennium” design which included a “Dusk to Dawn” color scheme and commemorative colors for the 60th Anniversary of 410 “Cougars” Squadron).
2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD as it’s more commonly known, so the RCAF and CF-18 team decided to paint their 2018 demo jet to honor the cooperation between Canada and the United States in monitoring and defending North America together over the past six decades, shining light on the importance of honoring the past, guarding the present, and protecting the future.
“As the Commander of the Canadian NORAD Region, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase the important NORAD mission and our important bi-national partnership through the 2018 National CF-18 Demonstration program,” said Major-General Christian Drouin, the commander of 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region. “The men and women of NORAD work diligently to keep watch over our countries and to protect the air sovereignty of North America. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, no matter what – we have the watch.”
The jet was unveiled to the world earlier this week at 4 Wing Cold Lake in Alberta, which is the busiest fighter base in Canada, and was painted by Aircraft Structures Technicians at 1 Air Maintenance Squadron at 4 Wing Cold Lake.
The big inspiration behind the design is the NORAD crest; all the elements of the paint job are taken from that. The colors key off of that too, with red and white colors representing the Canadian flag, and red white and blue representing the American flag, taking blue out of the NORAD crest as well. A wing-type shape on the wings reflects Canada’s famous Northern Lights, as well as radar sweeps, and is combined into one element. Lightning bolts shoot down the jet’s backside too, again taken from the NORAD crest, while a sword, star and maple leaf grace the jet’s tail.
“The design changed many may times, I’ve got about 65 different drawings for this airplane before it finally ended up at this design“, said Lead Designer, Reserve Captain Jeff Chester. “I hope that this design can be a badge of honor for all the men and women who stand the watch 24/7 in NORAD across Canada and the U.S.”
Capt Chester was mentored by world-renowned aircraft paint designer Jim Belliveau, who is well known for producing such incredible works of art on other aircraft in years past.
According to the RCAF, NORAD is supported in Canada by the Canadian NORAD Region (CANR), headquartered in Winnipeg, Man., and the Canadian Air Defence Sector (CADS) at 22 Wing North Bay, Ontario. CANR maintains CF-18 aircraft on standby at 3 Wing and 4 Wing, along with CC-130T Hercules air-to-air refuellers operating from Winnipeg, in support of the NORAD mission.
“Painting the new Demo jet requires a lot of preparation, outlining the design, preparing the surface, sanding, masking and cleaning, this job is 90% preparation and 10% painting“, said Corporal Daniel Jacobs. “There are a lot of minor intricacies that are involved to make the jet come out the way that it will. It is a special aircraft for more than just us, for everybody that will go to see it.”
Piloting this year’s CF-18 demo is Captain Stefan Porteous, a native of Comox, British Columbia, home of the RCAF’s 19 Wing, which also happens to be where both the CF-18 and Snowbirds teams conduct their spring training at before kicking off the air show season.
“I am extremely honoured to have been selected as Canada’s 2018 National CF-18 Demonstration Team pilot,” said Captain Porteous. “I am very much looking forward to commemorating 60 years of NORAD at air shows throughout the summer while having the opportunity to be part of a highly dedicated team that will work together to put on thrilling performances aimed at demonstrating the professionalism and skill of the men and women of the RCAF. I look forward to meeting as many people as possible over the course of the coming demonstration season.”
Now, Capt Porteous and the CF-18 team are at 19 Wing Comox for spring training, before kicking off their 2018 air show season at the Power in the Pines Open House and Air Show in Trenton, New Jersey May 5-6, followed by the NORAD 60th Anniversary Air Show in Colorado Springs, Colorado May 11-12.
All total the team is scheduled to perform at 26 air shows this year, including two in the United Kingdom at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, and at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Royal Air Force Fairford.
Check out the CF-18 Team’s full 2018 schedule HERE.
– Special thanks to Mike Reyno, Editor of SKIES Magazine, for his exceptional photography featured in this story. Subscribe to SKIES for his upcoming story on the 2018 CF-18 Team, where more unreleased images will be published of this beautiful jet in action.