Strategic Airlift

  • Strategic airlift is a critical capability for the Canadian Armed Forces to conduct operations at home and abroad.
  • It is routinely used to transport personnel and cargo, including for vaccine distribution and for evacuations.
  • For example, this critical Canadian Armed Forces capability was used in the multinational air bridge to evacuate Afghan nationals and Canadian citizens from Afghanistan.
  • This capability supported the safe evacuation of approximately 3, 700 persons from the Kabul airport in a matter of weeks.
  • More recently, Canadian Armed Forces strategic airlift capabilities are also being used to transport all lethal and non-lethal aid to Ukraine.

If Pressed on CAF’s Strategic Lift Capacity used in Afghanistan:

  • When determining how many passengers to load onto an aircraft, our aircrew had to account for a number of different factors to ensure that planes could safely reach their destination.
  • Our aircraft were configured to carry the maximum number of people.
  • To maximize the number of those evacuated, we coordinated closely with our Allied partners to fill aircraft rapidly, and optimize the number of planes that could land at Kabul’s airport.
  • Every person, aircraft and piece of equipment was dedicated to evacuating as many people as humanly possible.

If Pressed on Strategic Tanker Transport Capability project:

  • The Strategic Tanker Transport Capability project will augment our strategic airlift capability and enhance National Defence’s ability to conduct in-flight refueling and strategic airlift operations.
  • The project is currently in its Definition Phase and we anticipate a contract to be awarded in the 2022-2023 timeframe.
  • National Defence is also exploring options to expand its strategic airlift capability and further contribute to operations at home and abroad.

Key Facts

  • Operations:
    • Operation AEGIS: In August 2021, strategic airlift aircraft safely evacuated 3,400 individuals from Afghanistan.
    • Operation VECTOR: The Canadian Armed Forces used strategic airlift to transport, store, and distribute COVID-19 vaccines throughout Canada between December 2020 and June 2021.
  • Aid to Ukraine: Strategic airlift was used to transport all lethal and non-lethal aid to Ukraine.
  • Strategic Tanker Transport Capability Project:
    • Budget: Expected project cost between $1B and $5B.
    • Timeline:
      • Spring 2022: request for proposal.
      • 2022-2023: contract award date.
      • 2028-2029: anticipated initial operational capability.
    • Economic benefits: The Strategic Tanker Transport Capability Project qualifies under the Industrial and Technological Benefits policy, ensuring the contractor undertakes business activity in Canada equal to the value of the contract.
    • GBA+: Engagements in the areas of GBA+ and Indigenous considerations have been initiated and are being further developed for application within the scope of the Strategic Tanker Transport Capability project.

Future Fighter Capability Project (FFCP)

  • A modern fighter aircraft fleet is vital to protecting North American airspace and supporting our defence and security efforts at home and abroad.
  • That is why this Government launched an open and transparent competition to acquire 88 new, advanced fighter aircraft.
  • The process, led by Public Service and Procurement Canada, has oversight by an independent fairness monitor and a third-party reviewer.
  • I am pleased to say that we have entered the finalization phase of the project with the top-ranked bidder: the United States government and Lockheed Martin, for the F-35 fighter jet.
  • This means the bidder must successfully demonstrate that a contract will meet our criteria such as value for money, protection against risks and delivery assurances.
  • We are confident this process will deliver the best results for the Canadian Armed Forces, while providing economic benefits for Canada.

If pressed on timelines:

  • We continue working towards awarding a contract in 2022, with delivery of the first aircraft as early as 2025.

If pressed on the procurement of CF-18 Hornet fighter aircraft:

  • National Defence is taking concrete steps to ensure that the Royal Canadian Air Force can protect North American airspace and continue to fulfil NORAD and NATO commitments.
  • Canada is investing up to $340M in the acquisition and modification of F-18 Hornet fighter aircraft, spare parts and equipment to supplement Canada’s existing CF-18 fleet.
  • These aircraft will undergo upgrades to extend the life of the fleet and meet operational requirements until 2032, when the replacement fighter fleet is expected to be fully operational.
  • We aim to integrate all of the supplementary aircraft into our current fleet by the end of June 2023.

Key Facts

  • Announcement: On March 28, 2022, the Government of Canada announced that they will enter into the finalization phase with the top ranked bidder: the United States government and Lockheed Martin, for the F-35 fighter jet.
  • Delivery of first aircraft as early as 2025. However the delivery schedule will be determined in consultation with the bidder as part of the finalization process.
  • Fighter Squadron Facilities: To prepare for the arrival of the aircraft, National Defence is preparing for the construction of some of the new fleet’s facilities in Bagotville and Cold Lake.
    • For example, National Defence has awarded two contracts to undertake infrastructure upgrades.
    • This infrastructure will support the long-term maintenance and operation of these new aircraft.
  • GBA+: Bagotville and Cold Lake Fighter Squadron Facilities are planned to include:
    • Gender-inclusive washrooms and barrier free facilities;
    • Cultural rooms to accommodate diverse backgrounds and faiths; and
    • Lactation and nursing rooms.
  • Economic benefits:
    • Eligible suppliers were required to submit economic benefits proposals outlining planned investments in Canadian industry that support Canada’s Value Proposition objectives.
    • Anticipated construction of fighter squadron facilities will generate over 900 jobs.
  • Indigenous relations: The infrastructure design-builders in Bagotville and Cold Lake will prepare Indigenous benefit plans to support Indigenous procurement objectives.

Fixed-Wing Search And Rescue (FWSAR)

  • The Canadian Armed Forces provides life-saving search and rescue services to Canadians.
  • This is why National Defence is procuring 16 Kingfisher Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue aircraft to modernize this critical capability.
  • These aircraft will provide improved search and rescue capabilities across Canada, including in the Arctic, in difficult weather conditions, and at night.
  • As of April 2022, we have accepted ten aircraft, four of which have been delivered to Canada.
  • We anticipate that all remaining aircraft will be accepted by Canada by the end of 2022.
  • To ensure life-saving search and rescue services continue uninterrupted, existing fleets will continue to be used until the transition to the new aircraft is complete.
  • Through this project, one-hundred percent of the contract will be reinvested into the Canadian economy, sustaining highly skilled jobs across Canada.

If pressed on delivery delays:

  • The aircraft’s certification effort has taken additional time as a result of the volume and complexity of the work associated with developing this new capability, as well as impacts related to COVID-19.  
  • A revised project schedule is currently being assessed.

Key Facts

  • Budget: $2.2B
  • Contractor: Airbus
  • Timeline: Ground and flight testing is currently being conducted in Spain, the United States, and Canada.
    • March 2019: The first aircraft rolled off the production line.
    • September 17, 2020: The first delivered aircraft arrived at 19 Wing Comox, BC.
    • April 19, 2022: The tenth aircraft was accepted in Spain.
    • Fall 2022: Initial operational testing and evaluation is scheduled to begin.
    • Initial operational capability had been anticipated for summer 2022, however this timeline is shifting. This delay is attributed to several factors related to the progress of the aircraft’s certification, technical considerations, and training maturity.
  • The aircraft will:
    • Detect, identify, and classify objects and people, in low light and bad weather conditions, using state-of-the-art sensors;
    • Communicate better with other search and rescue systems through modern communication, navigation, and data management tools;
    • Conduct searches across the full range of Canada’s search and rescue areas of responsibility; and,
    • Be available when needed as a result of robust in-service support, including maintenance, engineering, and training support.
  • GBA+: The Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Training Facility in Comox will include:
    • Gender neutral washrooms that accommodate members with disabilities;
    • Nursing Rooms;
    • Cultural Rooms for prayer; and,
    • Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue equipment has been designed to accommodate all genders.
  • Indigenous relations: The Defence Team engaged with the K’òmoks First Nation in the construction of the training centre at 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia, on K’òmoks First Nation Traditional Territory.

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