Procurement – Air

Hornet Extension Project (HEP)

  • National Defence is seeking to extend the life of the full CF-18 fleet to ensure that the aircraft remain operationally relevant until 2032.
  • The Hornet Extension Project encompasses a number of enhancements and upgrades, and is being delivered in two phases.
  • Phase 1 is focused on maintaining compliance with evolving regulatory requirements and Allied interoperability standards.
  • This includes upgrades to transponders, satellite radios, navigation systems and mission computers.
  • Phase 2 is focused on enhancing the combat capability of our CF-18s – including new weapons and sensors.
  • These upgrades will be completed by 2025, and will help sustain our current fleet, while serving as a bridge to the new fighter’s full operational capability.

Key Facts

  • The Hornet Extension Project is currently estimated to cost $1.3B, excluding taxes.
  • In June 2020, the US Government is expected to announce Congressional Notification of its approval to proceed with several contracts with Canada to acquire equipment and services for the Hornet Extension Project.
    • This announcement will be valued at $862M USD, including $518M USD for current contracts and pre-approval for follow-on sustainment contracts that have not been initiated yet.
  • Initial Operational Capability is planned for 2023 with Full Operational Capability planned for 2025.
  • Timelines for this project are not expected to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a full evaluation of any delay will be assessed once the situation has stabilized.
  • Main Estimates 2020-21 request: $14M. Funds will be used for:
    • Acquiring avionics and mission support systems for up to 94 CF-18s; as well as,
    • New sensors, weapons, enhanced survivability, and security systems for up to 36 CF-18s.


  • The Hornet Extension Project is progressing rapidly to deliver new capability to ensure that the CF-18 Hornet remains operationally relevant for NORAD and NATO operations until 2032.
  • The Project encompasses a number of enhancements and upgrades and is being delivered in two phases:
    • Phase 1 is delivering enhancements mainly focused on addressing evolving civilian air traffic management regulations and meeting Allied military interoperability requirements.
      • This includes Satellite Radios, Inertial Navigation, and enhancements to current Sniper targeting pod simulators and to Mission Computers.
      • These upgrades will be delivered on up to 94 aircraft, which includes the 18 Australian fighter aircraft.
      • New cryptographic systems have been selected to meet changing interoperability standards so the CF-18 Hornet can use secure voice radios and satellite communications.
      • New systems have also been selected to meet new Air Traffic Control regulations so the CF-18 Hornet can operate in North American and European airspace.
    • Phase 2 is focused on additional combat capability upgrades to ensure that sufficient, operationally relevant, mission-ready CF-18 fighters are available to meet air power capability requirements in the current battle space until the future fighter fleet reaches full operational capability.
      • This includes the delivery of new sensors, new weapons, enhanced survivability and improved mission planning and security systems.
      • These upgrades will be delivered on up to 36 CF-18s.
      • New weapons have been selected to greatly improve lethality against short and medium range air and ground threats. Orders for these weapons have been initiated.
    • Approval has been received to partner with the United States Marine Corps in the integration of an advanced radar that has superior range and detection capabilities. Orders for the radars have also been initiated.
  • In May 2020, National Defence and Public Services Procurement Canada received expenditure and contract authorities from Treasury Board to begin the definition phase for Phase 2 of the Hornet Extension Project, and the implementation phase for select items.

Version 2.1 – 2020-06-10 – Source: D Parl A Supps (B) note, “CF-18 Upgrades”, 2020-03-10; ADM(Fin) Main Estimates note

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Interim Fighter Capability Project (IFCP)

  • The Interim Fighter Capability Project is acquiring 18 Australian fighter aircraft to supplement our existing CF-18 fleet until a permanent replacement fleet is fully operational.
  • These aircraft will help Canada simultaneously meet its NORAD and NATO commitments until a permanent replacement fleet is fully operational in 2032.
  • As of June 1, 2020, the first two Australian fighter aircraft accepted into service have accumulated a total of 153.3 flying hours.
  • An additional three aircraft have been transported to Canada and are currently undergoing inspections and modifications.
  • Through this work, we will continue to ensure that the Royal Canadian Air Force has the capability it needs to protect Canadian airspace and help defend our Allies.

Key Facts

  • Total project budget is $339.3M, excluding taxes.
  • Interim Australian fighter aircraft received to date: 5 of 18.
    • Canada plans to take delivery of a total of 10 Australian fighter aircraft in 2020-21. This number includes the 5th aircraft, which was received on May 30, 2020.
    • Next aircraft delivery: the 6th aircraft is due to arrive in Mirabel, Québec on June 27, 2020.
  • Timelines for this project are not expected to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a full evaluation of any delay will be assessed once the situation has stabilized.
  • Main Estimates 2020-21 request: $94.8M. Funds will be used to:
    • Acquire, transport, modify, and accept ten aircraft;
    • Purchase ejection seats and available Australian spares; and,
    • Progress associated infrastructure work.


  • To maintain Canada’s fighter jet capability, the Government of Canada signed a Purchase Arrangement with the Australian Government on November 9, 2018, to acquire 18 Australian F-18 Hornets to supplement Canada’s current fleet of fighter aircraft.
  • These additional 18 aircraft will augment the squadrons at Cold Lake, Alberta and Bagotville, Quebec.
  • Canada received the first two Australian aircraft on February 21, 2019.
  • The Royal Canadian Air Force declared Initial Operational Capability on June 28, 2019.
  • Canada received a third aircraft on November 17, 2019, the fourth aircraft on February 13, 2020, and the fifth on May 30, 2020.
  • The modification and inspections of the supplemental aircraft are conducted by the CF-18 Prime Air Vehicle support contractor (L-3 HARRIS) in Mirabel, Quebec.
  • In order to help sustain our existing CF-18s and these additional aircraft until the future fighter fleet is fully operational, this purchase includes the option to acquire up to seven additional airframes for spare parts and equipment. The decision to procure these aircraft is contingent on quantity of spares that the Government of Australia makes available to Canada.

Version 2.1: 2020-06-10 – Source: D Parl A Supps (B) note, “CF-18 Upgrades v5.1”, 2020-03-10; QP note, “Fighter Jets”, 2020-03-06; ADM(Fin) Main Estimates note

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Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)

  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems provide strategic surveillance, intelligence, and precision strike capabilities critical to addressing modern security challenges.
  • This is why this Government is moving forward with the procurement of these systems to enhance our military’s ability to conduct operations at home and abroad.
  • We anticipate awarding the contract in 2022/23, with delivery of the first system in 2024/25.
  • When operational, this system will enable near real-time flow of information essential to our military operations.
  • We will continue to ensure the Canadian Armed Forces has the modern capabilities required to conduct its operations at home and abroad.

Key Facts

  • The total project acquisition cost is estimated between $1B and $5B.
  • Qualified suppliers: L3 Technologies Harris, and United States Government and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
  • Timeline:
    • Anticipated Issue of Request for Proposals: 2020/2021
    • Anticipated contract award: 2022/2023
    • Anticipated first Delivery: 2024/2025
  • COVID-19 may have an effect on the project. A full evaluation of the impact will be completed once the situation has stabilized.
  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft System are not autonomous. They are piloted by qualified pilots who control and monitor the aircraft from ground control stations.
  • Main Estimates 2020-21 request: $6.8M. Funds will be used for:
    • General project management office costs;
    • Conducting infrastructure studies; and,
    • Sharing information and obtaining feedback from Qualified Suppliers.


  • This project seeks to acquire Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems through an open and transparent procurement process.The systems will:
    • Complement the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)’s existing intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance, and precision strike capabilities;
    • Support expeditionary, domestic, overland, maritime, and Arctic operations;
    • Include a variety of sensors, including high resolution electro-optical systems, imaging radar and Signals Intelligence equipment. Data from these sensors will be relayed to the ground control station and CAF units. When these systems are used domestically, they will be operated in full accordance with Canadian privacy laws and statutes; and,
    • Enable flexible and responsive decision-making by providing commanders with comprehensive and reliable intelligence in real-time.

Canadian Armed Forces usage of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System

  • During Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, the Canadian military operated a fleet of unarmed Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, which have since been retired.
  • The CAF does not currently operate a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems fleet. The Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Canadian Special Operations Forces operate small, mini, and micro Unmanned Aerial Systems; however, these are not in the same category as Remotely Piloted Aircraft.

Activities to date

  • In April 2019, the project received project and expenditure authority approval for the definition phase.
  • In May 2019, a list of Qualified Suppliers was established: L3 Technologies Harris, and United States Government and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
  • Since May 2019, the project team has had multiple engagements with the Qualified Suppliers as part of the Review and Refine Requirements process to develop the Request for Proposal. These engagements have included site visits to production facilities, meetings, releasing draft Request for Proposal content, and ongoing exchanges of written questions and answers.

Version 2.1 – 2020-06-10 – Source: D Parl A Supps (B) note, “Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)”, 2020-03-10; ADM(Fin) Main Estimates note

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Fixed Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR)

  • The Canadian Armed Forces provides life-saving search and rescue services to Canadians in need of assistance.
  • This is why we are procuring 16 Fixed Wing aircraft to help modernize this critical capability.
  • These aircraft will provide improved search and rescue capabilities across vast and challenging territory, including in the Arctic, in difficult weather conditions, and at night. 
  • Ground and flight testing of this new aircraft has begun, and the construction of a new training facility for aircrew and technicians in Comox, British Columbia is underway.
  • To ensure life-saving search and rescue services continue uninterrupted, the Royal Canadian Air Force will keep using its existing fleets until the arrival of the new aircraft.

If pressed on project delays:

  • The review and amendment of the technical manuals, which are necessary for the safe operation of the fleet, is taking more time than originally estimated.
  • COVID-19 has also impacted the project.
  • We are now aiming for the arrival of the first aircraft in Comox in late summer or early fall 2020, although this may be further delayed due to the pandemic.

Key Facts

  • The total project budget is $2.2B.
  • Airbus is contracted to deliver 16 twin-propeller CC-295 aircraft to replace the CC-115 Buffalo and the older CC-130 Hercules.
  • Economic Benefits: As part of the Request for Proposal, Airbus is required to team up with Canadian companies and reinvest 100% of the contract value into the Canada economy.
  • Main Estimates 2020-21 request: $590M. Funds will go towards contractual payments related to:
    • Aircraft production milestones;
    • Non-recurring engineering efforts; and,
    • The establishment of the in-service support at Main Operating Bases.


  • Canada is buying 16 Airbus CC-295 aircraft equipped with a state-of-the-art sensor suite which is expected to reduce search times; make searches more effective in all weather conditions, day and night, and at longer range; and increase interoperability with other search and rescue assets.
  • Specifically, the new 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 assets and their systems, through modern communication, navigation, and data management tools;
    • Conduct searches at low speed and low altitude, whether it is over the Rockies, the Arctic, or an ocean;
    • Meet all three extremes of Canada’s search and rescue area of responsibility; and,
    • Be available when needed thanks to robust in-service support, including maintenance, engineering and training support.
  • Five aircraft will be based at 19 Wing Comox, with two of those allocated to the 218 Training Squadron; three will be based at 17 Wing Winnipeg; three will be based at 8 Wing Trenton; and three will be based at 14 Wing Greenwood. The remaining two aircraft will be rotated through the four bases to cover periods where aircraft must undergo maintenance.
  • The construction of a new training facility for aircrew and technicians in Comox, British Columbia is underway, with an expected commissioning date of Fall 2020; although this may be delayed as a result of COVID-19.

Version 1.1 – 2020-06-10 – Source: D Parl A Supps (B) note, “Search and Rescue Aircraft (FWSAR) – v.2.1”, 2020-02-07; ADM(Fin) Main Estimates note

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  • Canada’s Challenger fleet fulfills critical roles in support of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Government of Canada.
  • For example, these aircraft:
    • Conduct emergency medical evacuations;
    • Deploy lead elements of the Disaster Assistance Response Team and other small military teams; and,
    • Provide controlled and secure Government of Canada transport for the Governor General, Prime Minister, ministers, and senior officials.
  • The Challenger fleet has demonstrated its utility during the COVID-19 crisis, delivering testing supplies to Nunavut and transporting Parliamentarians to attend Parliamentary sittings.
  • During this time, they also deployed Royal Canadian Navy experts to Italy to support the search for the Cyclone helicopter lost in the Ionian Sea.
  • New aviation rules are severely limiting the ability of the two oldest aircraft to operate outside Canada.
  • That is why we have announced the replacement of these two existing Challenger aircraft with two Challenger model 650s, leveraging a ready, off-the-shelf option.
  • Integrating these two similar aircraft into the existing fleet will result in significant benefits in training efficiency, costs, and fleet interoperability.
  • Ultimately, these aircraft will allow for the continuation of mission critical roles of the Canadian Armed Forces in Canada and around the world.

Key Facts

  • Contract value to Bombardier of the two Challenger 650 aircraft, initial training, and spare parts: $105M.
  • Challenger fleet size: 4 aircraft
    • 2 acquired in the early 1980s (601 model); and,
    • 2 acquired in 2002 (604 model).
  • The two older Challenger aircraft (601 model) are facing flight restrictions as a result of new air traffic regulations in the U.S. (January 2020) and Europe (December 2020).


Challenger fleet

  • The Royal Canadian Air Force Challenger fleet is composed of executive-style aircraft that provide the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) with the capability to conduct aeromedical evacuations, and transport senior military leadership, small military teams and equipment to theatres of operations. It also provides flights for the Governor General, government representatives, and members of the Royal Family.
  • When government travel must accommodate larger groups or include locations that require aircraft to travel greater distances, the CAF utilizes the CC-150 Polaris to fulfil such tasks.


  • Regulatory changes are being implemented worldwide to improve aviation safety. These new rules came into effect in the United States on January 1, 2020. Europe recently delayed the planned June 7, 2020 implementation to December 7, 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 situation. In Canada, the rules will be phased in between January 1, 2021 and January 1, 2023.
  • The new regulations require the use of Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B). ADS-B is a surveillance technology in which an aircraft determines its position via satellite navigation and periodically broadcasts it, enabling aircraft to be tracked by air traffic controllers.
  • While two of the newer Challengers (604 model) meet these new navigational requirements, the two older models (601) do not, and will not become compliant due to the nature of their older avionics systems. This results in restrictions from aviation authorities, including undesirable flight profiles, routing, operating times, or refusal of access to airspace. This limits flying efficiency and opportunities, as well as the capability’s operational effectiveness.
  • Modifying the 601 aircraft to meet the new regulations is not cost effective as it requires a complete cockpit replacement. Consolidation of the Challenger fleet is part of Canada’s Defence Policy Strong, Secured, Engaged and has been part of the Defence Capabilities Blueprint since 2018. The cost for these capabilities, as outlined in SSE, was accounted and paid for under existing funds in the SSE fiscal framework.

Version 1 – 2020-06-10 – Source: D Parl A Supps (B) note, “CF-18 Upgrades v5.1”, 2020-03-10; QP note, “Challenger Fleet replacements”, 2020-06-08

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