The Strategic Tanker Transport Capability Project and NORAD Modernization


July 25, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

Since 1992, the CC-150 Polaris aircraft and its crews have provided outstanding service to Canada. The roles of this fleet include providing air-to-air refuelling to our fighter fleet and our Allies and partners aircraft, providing cargo and personnel airlift, strategic Government of Canada personnel transport and aeromedical evacuations.

Canada’s Defence Policy identified that the Strategic Tanker Transport Capability (STTC) project will replace the CC-150 Polaris fleet and enhance the RCAF’s air mobility and air-to-air refuelling capacity. The importance of replacing this key capability was further emphasized through NORAD modernization efforts.

The aim of the STTC project is to replace the Polaris with a modern fleet able to support an increase in our refuelling capability, and sufficient aircraft to support simultaneous operations for extended periods from different locations. This will enable Canada to meet current and future NORAD and NATO commitments.

The CC-150 Polaris aircraft will be replaced by the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft from Airbus Defence and Space of Madrid, Spain. This new fleet, named the CC-330 Husky, is estimated to have a life expectancy of thirty years.

NORAD Modernization – Additional Air-to-Air Refuelling

The additional air-to-air refuelling initiative is an integral part of Canada’s investments in NORAD modernization announced by the Minister of National Defence in June 2022. This additional capability has been accelerated to align with the STTC project and is now included in its project scope. This initiative will allow the RCAF to enhance Canadian sovereignty operations, including in the Arctic. It will strengthen Canada’s air-to-air refueling support to NORAD and allow other STTC assets to support NATO commitments and provide support to fighter training.

The aircraft will be able to refuel not only current and future Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) fighter aircraft, but also fighter aircraft used by the US as part of NORAD and by NATO partners. Both the CF-18 and the F-35A aircraft are compatible with the CC-330 aircraft. 

Other Roles of the CC-330 Husky

The aircraft will be able to airlift large numbers of Canadian Armed Forces personnel and their equipment in support of operations and training activities within Canada, and around the world. This will enhance the transport capacity provided by the CC-177 Globemaster and CC-130J Hercules fleets, allowing for the more efficient movement of personnel and equipment.

As a multi-role aircraft, the CC-330 Husky will provide the RCAF with increased flexibility to fulfill a variety of missions with the same aircraft. The primary advantage is that it can perform the important air-to-air refuelling role (delivery of fuel in-flight through employment of either the boom or hose and drogue refuelling methods) while simultaneously being equipped to perform the most common strategic airlift mission (the transport of large numbers of troops or passengers) with no reconfiguration of the aircraft required. With some reconfiguration of the main floor cabin, this multi-role aircraft can be equipped to perform specialized aeromedical evacuation missions, which includes the ability to care for and transport critical and non-critical patients. Additionally, the CC-330 Husky aircraft will increase the RCAF’s ability to respond to unexpected operational requirements such as domestic or international emergencies or humanitarian relief missions.

New and Used Aircraft

The CC-330 Husky fleet will be composed of nine aircraft based on a mix of new (four) and used (five) aircraft that have been  purchased from the commercial market and configured as follows:

  • Air-to-air refuelling and strategic airlift (operational grey livery):
    • A minimum of eight aircraft will be true multi-role aircraft and will provide air-to-air refuelling, perform strategic airlift of troops or passenger transport and be configurable to deliver specialized aeromedical evacuation when required.
  • Government of Canada aircraft (white livery):
    •  One of the used aircraft will deliver a strategic airlift capability that provides secure transport of high-ranking government officials. If this aircraft is converted to a Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) a total of up to nine aircraft could perform air-to-air refuelling.

The COVID-19 pandemic had sweeping effects on the aviation sector, and research revealed that market conditions were favourable for the procurement of used aircraft that met specific technical conditions, had sufficient life remaining and were suitable for conversion to the STTC configuration. Incorporating used aircraft into the STTC fleet will achieve millions of dollars in cost savings for Canadians.

The procurement of used aircraft for this capability is a viable option given that military rates of annual flight hour consumption are typically less than commercial rates. Thus, a used commercial aircraft that has a modest number of hours flown on it can still achieve a full military service life of thirty years. Several other militaries, such as those of Australia, Spain and France, have either already adopted used aircraft or are actively incorporating used aircraft into their fleets for this particular capability because of the greater value for money this strategy can bring.

Canada has procured via competitve processes, five used A330-200 aircraft. The first two are currently undergoing pre-delivery scheduled maintenance, painting and preparation for acceptance expected in summer and fall 2023 respectively while the other three were recently contracted for delivery in 2024. The first used aircraft will be delivered with a similar livery (i.e. paint scheme) to the current CC15001 Polaris aircraft providing strategic Government of Canada transport, and will be accepted and ferried to Canada this summer. The first two used aircraft are expected to enter to RCAF service in fall 2023 following aircrew conversion training.


New infrastructure will be required to house the new fleet of aircraft, which will be constructed at two main operating bases, one in eastern and the other in western Canada; and at least one NORAD forward operating location. The locations for all three remain to be determined. A decision on the location of main operating base in eastern Canada is expected later this year, with subsequent location decisions to follow. The RCAF has selected Ottawa International Airport as the location for interim operations of the first two used CC-330 aircraft.

In-Service Support

The long-term sustainment of the CC-330 fleet will be sourced through a separate competitive procurement process that was initiated in the fall 2022 with contract award expected in 2025. While the long-term in-service support program is being defined, competed and established, an interim in-service support solution has been arranged to provide the maintenance and engineering services needed to support the RCAF’s operation of the used A330-200 aircraft.

Green Policy and Training

The STTC project will comply with all relevant environmental regulations, respect the Department of National Defence’s commitments to environment and sustainable management and align with the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and policy commitments in the Greening Government Strategy (GGS) and the Policy on Green Procurement.

The Department of National Defence (DND) is committed to modern green building design standards that consider life-cycle impacts from design to disposal. New infrastructure (and retrofitted infrastructure as applicable) will be developed to sustainable design standards in accordance with the new DND Green Buildings Directive to minimize impact on the environment. The construction and operation of infrastructure will consume some resources, however the design and construction of infrastructure will be in accordance with the Green Buildings Directive, which is aimed at reducing the environmental impacts associated with buildings, including water and energy consumption.

With the increased fleet size and NORAD readiness posture that comes with the additional air-to-air refuelling initiative, DND will be acquiring a full mission flight simulator capability. The use of a simulator to conduct training flights to maintain aircrew currency will significantly reduce aviation fuel usage, which will have the corresponding benefit of reducing green house gas emissions. Having a domestic simulator will also eliminate the travel expenses associated with sending aircrew internationally to complete initial and recurrent training.

The development of the Request for Proposal for the long-term In-Service Support of the CC-330 fleet will incorporate Government of Canada environmental objectives as well.

Industrial and Technological Benefits

The Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) Policy, including the value proposition, will apply to this procurement to leverage economic benefits for Canada equal to the value of the contract. Through the ITB Policy, the STTC project will leverage investments and business activities in support of Canada’s key industrial capabilities.

Associated Links

The Strategic Tanker Transport Capability Project and NORAD Modernization

STTC Website


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Department of National Defence
Phone: 613-904-3333

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