Colorado Springs museum accepts donation of Canadian fighter jet

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jennifer Stadnyk
  • NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

The Air and Space Museum at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs prides itself on being one of only twelve United States Air Force Field Museums and Colorado’s oldest aviation museum. Located at the historic site of the original airport passenger terminal for the City of Colorado Springs, the museum boasts exhibits and aircraft telling the story of North American air defense. Featured aircraft on display have included first generation USAF fighter interceptors, radar warning aircraft and two Canadian aircraft. However, one piece of North American defense aviation history has been missing from the museum. Until now.

On June 24, a third Canadian aircraft was unveiled at the museum’s Airpark. The CF-188A Hornet (tail number 188723) was donated by the Government of Canada to the USAF Heritage Program as a gesture of appreciation for the U.S. and Canada’s longstanding and continued partnership through the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

“We are very excited to receive the Hornet as part of the Peterson Air and Space Museum collection,” said Gail Whalen, museum director. “It will help us share the joint U.S. and Canadian heritage and traditions that keep alive the stories of our military servicemen and women for all generations.”

The donation concept did not happen overnight. In 2013, then-NORAD Deputy Commanders General (ret) Tom Lawson and Lieutenant-General Alain Parent discussed the lack of modern NORAD aviation representation at the museum. They both agreed that the museum would benefit from displaying a decommissioned CF-188, the aircraft that has been used by Canada since 1984 to conduct NORAD’s missions. Three years later, their vision was finally realized.

The project manager for the donation, Lieutenant-Colonel Miguel ‘Mig’ Bernard described the efforts over the past three years as a “labor of love”. A lot of coordination and patience was required to gain the appropriate approvals; decommission the aircraft; agree to the paint scheme; as well as oversee the disassembly, transportation and reassembly of the aircraft in Colorado Springs. It was all worth it, he said. The presence of the Hornet in the Airpark will be an "enduring reminder of our two countries' commitment to one another and shared defense of the continent."

The June 24 ceremony was attended by the local military and civilian community and hosted by the 21st Space Wing Commander, Col. Douglas Schiess, with the NORAD Deputy Commander, Lt.-Gen Pierre St-Amand invited as the distinguished guest of honor.

Schiess told the audience that the displayed aircraft symbolize a ‘walk through time’ and that the modern multirole fighter is now represented with the permanent addition of the Hornet to the collection.

"These historic displays are a symbol for all the men and women who've served and who sacrifice daily for our freedom,” said Schiess. “I welcome one more symbol, Number 188723, to the 21st Space Wing today."

Lt.-Gen St-Amand, who has more than 2,700 hours flying the Hornet and flew the donated jet operationally, called it an “old friend” and while it makes him sad to see such a fine jet retired, he agreed that the Peterson Air and Space museum is the most appropriate place for it to be displayed. He concluded his remarks by saying “This aircraft will stand as a symbol of our combined prosperity and a monument to the continued cooperation between Canada and the U.S.”