Procurement – Air

CF-18 Upgrades

  • 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 CF-18 Life Extension Project will encompass a number of enhancements and upgrades, and will be delivered in two phases.
  • Phase 1 is focused on maintaining compliance with evolving regulatory requirements and Allied interoperability standards. 
  • Phase 2 is focused on enhancing the combat capability of our CF-18s to meet air power capability requirements in the current battle space.
  • These upgrades will be completed by 2025.
  • They will help sustain our current fleet until 2032, 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 to ensure CF-18 operational relevancy until 2032.
  • Two Australian fighter aircraft have been accepted into service and have accumulated a combined total of 176.1 flying hours.


  • To ensure that Canada retains a fighter capability during the transition period to the permanent replacement fleet, the current CF-18 fleet will be managed and extended to 2032, at which time the fleet will be 50 years old. Individual aircraft will be retired when their safe structural life has expired or they are no longer required by the Royal Canadian Air Force.
  • The Hornet Extension Project encompasses a number of enhancements and upgrades. The project 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 Combined Interrogator Transponder, Satellite Radios, Inertial Navigation, and Mission Computer.
    • These upgrades will be delivered to the entire fleet of 94 aircraft, which includes the 18 Australian fighter aircraft.
  • 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 a new sensor, new weapons, enhanced survivability and improved mission planning and security systems.
    • Initial Operational Capability for the Hornet Extension Project is planned for 2023 with full Operational Capability planned for 2025.

Version 5.1; 2020-03-10 – Source: D Parl A Supps (A) note, “CF-18 Hornet Extension Project”, 2019-12-05

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Future Fighters

  • A modern fighter aircraft is critical to protecting North American airspace and meeting defence and security challenges abroad.
  • This is why we launched an open and transparent competition to acquire 88 new advanced fighter aircraft.
  • This includes ensuring that bidders are able to participate in the competition and are able to provide industrial and economic benefits in Canada equal to the contract value.
  • We are making significant progress on this commitment, including having released a Request for Proposal in July 2019.
  • We have a rigorous process in place to select the best proposal.
  • Eligible Suppliers are expected to submit their full proposals this spring.
  • Through this project, we will deliver a modern fighter capability to the Royal Canadian Air Force, ensuring that it maintains the capability to meet complex and evolving threats.

Key Facts

  • The acquisition of the advanced fighter aircraft, along with the associated equipment, weapons, and sustainment capability is estimated to cost $19B.
  • First delivery in Canada is expected as early as 2025.  
  • Supplier teams in the competition for Canada’s future advanced fighter: Sweden – Saab, United States - Boeing, and United States - Lockheed Martin.
  • Bid evaluation completion/contract award: 2021/2022


Future Fighter Capability Project

  • In December 2017, the Government of Canada launched an open and transparent competition for the permanent replacement of Canada’s fighter fleet.
  • In February 2018, the Government announced five eligible government-led Supplier teams, including, France – Dassault, Sweden – SAAB, United Kingdom – Airbus, United States – Boeing, and United States – Lockheed Martin.
  • On November 8, 2018, the France – Dassault team informed Canada of its decision to officially withdraw from the competition, and on August 30, 2019, the United Kingdom Government – Airbus also informed Canada that it was withdrawing. Only the three remaining Supplier teams are currently eligible to submit proposals under the future fighter competitive procurement process.
  • After 18 months of extensive engagement with the eligible Suppliers, the Request for Proposal was released on July 23, 2019. The remaining eligible Suppliers have until spring 2020 to submit their proposals. Proposals will be rigorously assessed on elements of cost, technical requirements, and economic benefits. The evaluation will also include an assessment of bidders’ impact on Canada’s economic interests.
  • Supplier selection is anticipated in 2021 and contract award in 2022, leading to first aircraft delivery as early as 2025.

Version 5; 2020-02-26 – Source: D Parl A Supps (A) note, “Future Fighter Capability Project”, 2019-12-05

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Challenger Fleet

  • Canada’s Challenger fleet fulfills critical roles in support of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Government of Canada.
  • These aircraft:
    • conduct emergency medical evacuations;
    • deploy the Disaster Assistance Response Team and other small military teams; and
    • provide controlled and secure Government of Canada transport for government representatives, including the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers.
  • We are currently assessing options that will allow the Government to continue operating the current Challenger fleet so that it can continue to fulfill its key roles.

Key Facts

  • Challenger fleet size: 4 aircraft:
    • 2 were acquired in 1994 (601 model); and
    • 2 were acquired in 2002 (604 model).


Challenger Fleet

  • The Royal Canadian Air Force Challenger fleet is composed of executive-style aircraft that provide the Canadian Armed Forces 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 and Australia will follow suit on June 7, 2020.
  • 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. The Royal Canadian Air Force is looking at replacement options and is in discussions with regulatory authorities to establish procedures to reduce some of the operational limitations to the current jets.

Version 5; 2020-02-26 – Source: D Parl A Supps (A) note, “Replacement of the Challenger Fleet”, 2019-12-05; and QP Note, “Challenger Fleet replacement”, 2020-01-31

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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 we are moving forward with the procurement of these systems to enhance our military’s ability to conduct operations at home and abroad.
  • These systems will be integrated into a network of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems to enable near real-time flow of information essential to our military operations.
  • We are currently engaging with qualified suppliers to review and refine requirements in order to meet Canada’s defence needs.
  • We will continue to ensure the Canadian Armed Forces has the modern capabilities required to conduct its operations at home and abroad.

Key Facts

  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft System are not autonomous. They are piloted by qualified pilots who control and monitor the aircraft from ground control stations.
  • May 31, 2019: Two suppliers were qualified under an Invitation to Qualify process: L3 Technologies Harris, and United States Government and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
  • FY 2020/2021: Anticipated Issue of Request for Proposals
  • FY 2022/2023: Anticipated contract award
  • FY 2024/2025: Anticipated first Delivery
  • Acquisition costs of the project are estimated between $1-5B.


  • Through the Remotely Piloted Aircraft System project, National Defence will acquire long range and long-endurance capabilities to support domestic and expeditionary operations.
  • The project seeks to acquire Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems through an open and transparent procurement process.
  • The systems will:
    • Complement the 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.

Version 5; 2020-02-20 – Source: D Parl A Supps (A) note, “Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems”, 2019-12-05

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Airbus CC-150 Polaris

  • Canada’s fleet of Polaris aircraft serve several essential purposes for the Government, including medical evacuations, transporting supplies, and air-to-air refueling.
  • They also perform the role of providing our Prime Minister, Governor General, or Royal Family with safe and secure transportation to anywhere in the world.
  • Through Canada’s defence policy, we have committed to replacing the existing CC-150 fleet capability with a new Strategic Tanker Transport Capability.
  • This will enable Canada’s continued contribution and support to NORAD, NATO, and coalition operations.
  • It will also help ensure the Royal Canadian Air Force can deliver air-to-air refueling, strategic airlift, aeromedical evacuations and strategic Government of Canada transport.

If pressed on damaged aircraft:

  • Damages have been assessed and repair work has started to return the aircraft to service late this year.
  • The Royal Canadian Air Force is confident it can continue to meet the Prime Minister’s travel demands while the aircraft is being repaired.

Key Facts

  • Current fleet: 5 Airbus A-310 tanker aircraft; 3 configured for transport (119-194 passengers), 2 configured for air-to-air refueling.
  • Aircraft based at 8 Wing Trenton and operated by 437 Squadron. 
  • The estimated life expectancy of the fleet is March 2027.
  • The 2018 Defence Investment Plan estimates the Strategic Tanker Transport Capability project will be in the range of $1-5B.


  • The CC-150 Polaris is a multi-purpose, twin-engine, long-range jet aircraft. It can be used for passenger, freight or medical transport and air-to-air refueling. The Polaris can reach a speed of up to 1029 km/h carrying a load of up to 32,000 kilograms. It can carry up to 194 passengers, depending on the particular aircraft tail number and configuration.
  • All five CC-150 Polaris aircraft are stationed at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario. During its years in service, the Polaris fleet has transported vast amounts of supplies to Canadian Armed Forces personnel deployed all over the world.
  • Two CC-150 Polaris aircraft have been converted to strategic air-to-air refuellers for Canada’s fleet of CF-18 Hornets. The Polaris Multi-Role Tanker Transport is capable of transferring 36,000 kilograms of fuel to receiving aircraft over a journey of 4,630 kilometres. One Polaris tanker can ferry a flight of four CF-18 Hornets non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean.

Strategic Tanker Transport Capability

  • The Strategic Tanker Transport Capability project is currently in the Options Analysis phase. The intent is to achieve Project Approval and enter into the Definition phase in spring 2020.

Damage to Aircraft

  • On October 18, 2019, while being towed into a hangar at 8 Wing Trenton by contracted maintenance personnel, the CC-150 (01) Polaris aircraft that usually transports the Prime Minister suffered significant structural damage to the nose and right engine cowling and will not return into service until fall 2020.The Royal Canadian Air Force is confident it can continue to meet the Prime Minister’s travel demands while the aircraft is being repaired.
  • On December 2, 2019, a problem with one of the engines on the backup Polaris CC-150 (03) used by the Prime Minister to attend the NATO summit in London was discovered, which required a standard 3-day repair that did not meet the Prime Minister’s timelines. This required the Royal Canadian Air Force to provide an alternative aircraft, CC-150 (02), to return to Canada.

Version 5; 2020-02-26 – Source: D Parl A Supps (A) note, “CC-150 POLARIS”, 2019-12-05

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