Airbus Defence and Space S.A. was recently awarded a $3.6 billion contract from the Government of Canada to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) CC-150 Polaris fleet.
“I am pleased that today’s contract award announcement to Airbus Defence and Space S.A. will enable our government to continue to provide the Royal Canadian Air Force and its members with the advanced equipment they need to do their job, at the best value for Canadians,” stated Helena Jaczek, minister of public services and procurement, on the day of the announcement.
Announced at the end of July, the contract will see the RCAF receive a new fleet of nine aircraft. The contract also includes acquiring four new Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft and converting five used A330-200 aircraft, according to the Department of National Defence.
“The used aircraft were procured through separate procurement processes with significant cost savings and provide best value for Canadians,” stated a release from DND.
Strategic Tanker Transport Capability Project
The acquisitions and new contract are part of the government’s Strategic Tanker Transport Capability project. According to DND, this project can contribute more than $145 million annually to Canada’s gross domestic product and create more than a thousand jobs annually for Canadians.
“This announcement builds on decades of partnerships between Airbus and Canada. Our government will be leveraging meaningful and long-term economic benefits to Canada through the Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy to foster innovation in our aerospace industry and lead to the creation of high-value jobs across Canada,” said François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry.
An Updated Fleet
The government began purchasing aircraft in July 2022 when it procured two used A330-200 aircraft for US$102 million. An additional three aircraft were purchased this past July for US$150 million.
The CC-330s are expected to be multi-role aircraft that will primarily fill the role of air-to-air refuelling. According to the military, the aircraft will be able to refuel current and future RCAF fighter aircraft along with fueling fighter aircraft used by the US as part of NORAD and by NATO partners.
It will also be capable of transporting large amounts of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and equipment around the world.
With a reconfiguration, it is expected that the aircraft will perform “specialized aeromedical evacuation missions.”
Meet Future Challenges and Commitments
The government is anticipating the new aircraft will allow Canada to meet future challenges and commitments such as those made with North Atlantic Treaty Organization and to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
“As autocratic regimes threaten the rules-based international order, there is a pressing need to modernize the capabilities of the Royal Canadian Air Force in support of North Atlantic Treaty Organization and North American Aerospace Defense Command operations.
“The Strategic Tanker Transport Capability brought forward today with the contract award for renewed air-to-air refuelling, strategic transport and aeromedical evacuation capabilities, will deliver modern equipment for our Canadian Armed Forces, who put their lives on the line every single day to defend our shared continent with the US, and support our allies in time of need,” said Minister of National Defence, Anita Anand at the time of the announcement.
According to DND, the new fleet is expected to fly into the 2050s.
Naming the Fleet
The new fleet is expected to be called the CC-330 Husky because, according to DND, the Husky’s long-standing history with the RCAF’s 437 Transport Squadron. The 437 Squadron will be the home of this new fleet.
“Since 1944, the Husky has served as the mascot for the squadron, and the Husky emblem proudly adorns the Squadron Crest, symbolizing the spirit and values embodied by this remarkable breed. Additionally, during local training flights, 437 Squadron aircraft currently use the callsign “Husky,” stated a DND press release.
Previous Polaris Fleet
The existing CC-150 Polaris fleet, currently based in Trenton, Ontario, has served the RCAF for more than thirty years. It is now nearing the end of its service life.
The existing CC-150 Polaris fleet consists of five aircraft. According to DND, this current fleet “ is aging and cannot effectively perform all of its operational requirements, which has resulted in decreased mission flexibility.”