The Government of Canada has officially announced its plans to replace its fleet of CP-140 Auroras with Boeing’s P8-A Poseidon. According to a press-released issue by National Defence, Canada has finalized a government-to-government agreement with the United States (US) government for the acquisition of up to 16 P-8A Poseidon aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Fourteen multi-mission aircraft will be procured, with options for up to an additional two. The first P-8A should be delivered in 2026, and with an average of one aircraft delivered per month, all of the aircraft could be delivered as early as fall 2027. The government anticipates full operational capability by 2033. The estimated investment for this project is $10.4 billion CAD; it includes up to $5.9 billion USD for the P-8A, associated equipment, training devices and sustainment set-up. The balance will cover additional investments in simulators, infrastructure and weapons.

The announcement comes a day after it was reported that officials from the Department of National Defence quietly fast-tracked the removal of the Aurora aircraft from service by a decade. With recent upgrades, this aircraft was due to fly until 2040.

The Aurora fleet is Canada’s primary airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft. The Aurora provides a full range of maritime, littoral and overland surveillance capabilities for domestic and deployed missions in support of Canadian sovereignty and international objectives, as well as anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare. It has been modernized with a world-class integrated mission suite with state-of-the-art avionics, communications systems, computer networks, and sensors. These modernization efforts cost hundreds of millions of dollars and were only recently completed. This begs the question, why did Canada bother investing in this upgrade if they planned on replacing the fleet?

Canada Issues Letter of Request 

On March 27, 2023, the federal government released its ‘Statement on the Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft (CMMA) for the Royal Canadian Air Force’. “As part of its defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged, the Government of Canada is seeking to replace the CP-140 Aurora fleet with a Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft (CMMA) for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The CP-140 Aurora fleet was originally procured in 1980, and the aircraft is currently scheduled to retire from service in 2030,” the statement from Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) said.

“A Request for Information (RFI) was released in February 2022 to obtain information from industry,” the PSPC statement continued. “Following engagements with industry and Canada’s closest allies, the government has determined that the P-8A Poseidon is the only currently available aircraft that meets all of the CMMA operational requirements, namely anti-submarine warfare and C4ISR. With a view to exploring this option in more detail, Canada has recently submitted a Letter of Request (LOR) through the United States government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program outlining Canada’s requirements and requesting an offer. These requirements include up to 16 P-8A Poseidon aircraft and associated equipment and initial servicing, as well as access to intellectual property and technical data.”

“The issuance of a LOR does not commit Canada to purchasing the P-8A Poseidon and the project remains in Options Analysis,” the PSPC statement concluded. “The final decision will be based on the capability offered, availability, pricing and benefits to Canadian industry.”

The RCAF's first Block IV modified CP-140 Aurora prepares for flight

Bombardier & GDMS-C Propose the Global 6500

This news, while unfortunate, probably does not come as a shock to Canada’s Multi-Mission Aircraft Team, which is a teaming between Bombardier Defense and General Dynamics Mission Systems – Canada (GDMS-C). It was announced on May 18th that Bombardier and GDMS-C partnered to form ‘Canada’s Multi-Mission Aircraft Team’ to bid on what they hoped would be a competitive, open, and transparent procurement process. According to the May 18th press-release “The aircraft will host General Dynamics’ best-in-class integrated mission systems, drawing directly from Canada’s investment in the newly modernized CP-140 Block IV and CH-148 Cyclone. This operationally proven Canadian design forms the basis for the iterative and low risk integration of modernized sensors and systems enabling Canada to leap even further ahead of peers and adversaries alike. This future-proof foundation will also ensure continued operational relevance, responding to Canada’s emergent needs through the middle of this century.”

READ: COVER STORY – BOMBARDIER DEFENSE – OFFERING A HOME-GROWN SOLUTION FOR CMMA

At the recent Canadian Aerospace Summit in Ottawa, which is presented by AIAC, Bombardier President and CEO, Eric Martel, made the case for his company’s militarized Global 6500 business jet to be allowed to compete against Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon for the Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft (CMMA) contract. “We have the ability here in Canada to meet our own needs, to leverage our own innovation,” he said. “Again, Bombardier is not asking that anyone give us the contract. We simply want a chance to compete.”

Boeing’s P-8

While there is much controversy surrounding the purchase of the P-8A Poseidon, it cannot be denied that the P-8A Poseidon is an impressive aircraft. The P-8A Poseidon, a proven military off-the-shelf multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft which is arguably one of the most advanced and capable solutions in the world today. The Poseidon offers advanced anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and search and rescue capability, and is the only non-developmental, in-service, in-production multi-mission aircraft that meets all CMMA requirements.

Boeing currently has an order book of 183 P-8 aircraft, and has produced and/or delivered 155 aircraft as of Febuary 2023. Six nations currently operate the P-8, with South Korea soon to receive its first aircraft; and Germany being the most recent nation to select the P-8.

READ: COVER STORY – BOEING’S P8-A POSEIDON 

In proposing the P-8 Poseidon as their solution for CMMA, Boeing leads Team Poseidon, a pan-Canadian industrial team consisting of CAE, GE Aviation Canada, IMP Aerospace & Defence, KF Aerospace, Honeywell Aerospace Canada, Raytheon Canada, and StandardAero.

Team Poseidon builds on 81 Canadian suppliers to the platform and to more than 550 Canadian suppliers across all provinces contributing to Boeing’s annual $5.3 billion CAD in economic benefit to Canada, supporting more than 20,000 Canadian jobs.

The 81 Canadian companies that are suppliers to the P-8, build commercial 737 NG parts and some supply parts which are unique to the P-8. In all, it results in over $10 million USD of Canadian content on every P-8 that has ever been built. That means that Canada has already received more than $1.5 billion in economic benefits.

“In today’s complex global environment, Canada requires a military that is capable of protecting our country well into the future. We are committed to ensuring that our current and future aviators have the most advanced equipment possible to do just that. Canada requires a multi-mission fleet to contribute to the safety and security of Canadians and protect the sovereignty of a country with the longest coastline in the world. The Boeing P-8A Poseidon is the right aircraft to fulfil this role.” The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence