Earlier this year, the Canadian Department of National Defence signed a letter of agreement with other NATO nations to begin a process of working together to shape a replacement maritime patrol aircraft, which in the case of Canada would be for the CP-140.
Canada has joined an international program which is expected to yield a new generation of maritime surveillance aircraft that will eventually replace platforms such as the extensively-upgraded CP-140 Auroras first deployed by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in the early 1980s.
The Department of National Defence confirmed in a statement that Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, in Brussels for the latest North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defence ministerial meeting, had signed a letter the previous day signalling Canada’s intent to join the Maritime Multi-Mission Aircraft (M3A) forum, where the allies would “share force development resources and knowledge, in the pursuit of maritime patrol aircraft recapitalization.”
Poland also confirmed plans to join France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey on developing follow-on solutions for aging fleets of maritime anti-submarine and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft which are becoming increasingly costly to maintain.
The original six began collaborating last June, hoping that a common approach could help to contain the cost of developing new aircraft.
“This joint effort recognizes the fact that the majority of allies’ maritime patrol aircraft fleets will be reaching the end of their operational lives between 2025 and 2035,” said NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller during the signing ceremony.
Gottemoeller, a United States career diplomat, said the eight countries now needed to push on to the implementation phase for the M3A.
“The goal here isn’t just a drawing board design,” she said. “We need a new generation of aircraft . . . fulfilling what is an increasingly important mission.”
An article published in the Canadian Defence Review on March 8, 2018 added some further comments on this development.
Canada has joined a group of NATO nations that are looking to jointly acquire a maritime surveillance aircraft. The MMMAC (Multi Mission Maritime Aircraft Capabilities) program has been set up to identify a new generation of aircraft to replace current maritime surveillance aircraft that are nearing the end of their service life. In Canada’s case that would be the CP-140 Aurora.
Boeing’s P-8 aircraft has already been acquired by three other NATO nations, the US, UK and Norway but it is a very expensive aircraft and, with respect to Canada there is the matter of the contretemps over Boeing’s targeting of Bombardier in a trade dispute that may or may not impact whether Canada buys that aircraft down the road.
But, ironically Canada’s own Bombardier may offer a much less expensive alternative to P-8. Swordfish is a Saab MSA offering that is based on Bombardier’s Global 6000 platform which is optimized for maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare.
In an article in CDR back in 2016, Stephane Villeneuve, Vice President, Specialized Aircraft, at Bombardier, commented, “We’re not just delivering a green aircraft; our engineers are actively working with Saab to develop capabilities.”
And, Boeing arch rival, Airbus, which now has a partnership with Bombardier on the C Series aircraft, may offer its A319 aircraft for the requirement and that could appeal to the heavy European component of the group. But, with the Airbus connection to Bombardier through the C Series, you can now add Canada to the mix.
Other nations in the eight-member NATO group are: Poland, Germany, France, Spain, Greece, Italy and Turkey. The program is in the early stages but certainly, if Canada is thinking strategically, it may want to start laying the groundwork for a home-grown solution to a CP-140 very soon.