Canada’s First Block IV-Modified CP-140 Aurora Aircraft Begins Initial Flight Tests

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)’s first Block IV-modified CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft has begun initial flight test assessments to verify the safety of the design for flight.

The Block IV upgrade is the latest in the Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP). It primarily involved the addition of three new key features to the fourteen Block III AIMP configured aircraft: beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) satellite communication (SATCOM), link 16 Datalink (a military tactical data exchange network used by NATO countries), and self-defense system.

The AIMP Block IV upgrade project was approved on June 16, 2015, with the contract awarded to General Dynamics Mission Systems – Canada on October 16, 2015, to implement the modifications to the data management system.

The modification of the Block IV prototype aircraft, CP-140 018, started on November 6, 2017, with the proof of fit aircraft modification beginning on October 10, 2018. The integration testing of upgrades on prototype aircraft began on December 13, 2018, and the ground test readiness review was conducted on April 29, 2019, clearing the way for the start of ground testing.

The initial operational capability (IOC) for the AIMP Block IV upgrade is scheduled for June 2020 and the full operational capability (FOC) is expected in September 2022.

Canada’s CP-140 Aurora Fleet

Canada operates a fleet of 14 CP-140 Aurora aircraft which based on the Lockheed P-3 Orion airframe, but with electronics suite of the Lockheed S-3 Viking.

CP-140 Aurora is Canada’s primary airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.

The Aurora provides a full range of maritime, littoral and overland surveillance capabilities for domestic and deployed missions in support of Canadian sovereignty and international objectives, as well as anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare. It has been modernized with a world-class integrated mission suite with state-of-the-art avionics, communications systems, computer networks, and sensors.

Canada has planned two upgrade projects for its Aurora fleet, the Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP) and the Aurora Structural Life Extension Project (ASLEP), to increase the aircraft’s capability and operational life respectively. The total approved cost in 2019 for AIMP and ASLEP combined is $1.983 billion.

Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP)

The Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP) involves 23 individual projects to acquire, integrate and install new mission systems and sensors onto the CP-140 for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. This project is being executed in a phased approach with four blocks; blocks 1, 2 and 3 are complete, and block 4 is in the implementation phase.

• Block I (completed): Replace the high-frequency radio and a number of obsolete systems in order to provide a baseline for the major upgrades that followed;
• Block II (completed): Replace the outdated navigation and communication management systems, and associated radios
• Block III (completed): Replace the mission computer and sensors (radar, electro-optics/infrared sensor package, ESM, and acoustic detection systems);
• Block IV (undergoing): Upgrade three key features of the fourteen Block III configured aircraft: beyond-line-of-sight satellite communication, link 16 datalink (a military tactical data exchange network used by NATO countries), and self-defense system.

Once AIMP was completed the CP-140 will be designated as CP-140M.

Aurora Structural Life Extension Project (ASLEP)

The Government of Canada is also extending the life of the Aurora fleet. The Aurora Structural Life Extension Project (ASLEP) involves replacing wings and horizontal stabilizers on the aircraft. It will extend the operational life of the CP-140 Aurora fleet to 2030.

Contractors for the projects:

• CAE: Simulator systems and magnetic anomaly detector
• CMC Electronics: Prime contractor for block II navigation systems
• General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada: Data management system and acoustic processing system
• IMP Group International Inc: Modernisation and life extension
• L-3 Communications Electronic Systems: Avionics
• Lockheed Martin Canada: Supply and installation of the Wescam Model 20 EO/IR
• Lockheed Martin: Including Lockheed Martin Aeronautics for the structural life extension kits and Lockheed Martin Systems Integration – Owego for the ESM system
• MDA Corporation: APS-508 multi-mode Imaging Radar System
• Thales Canada: Prime contractor for Block II Communication systems

Aurora specifications:

Dimensions and Performance:

• Length: 35.61 metres
• Wingspan: 30.37 metres
• Height: 10.30 metres
• Power: 4 Allison T-56-A-14-LFE turboprop engines
• Maximum Speed: 750 kmph
• Cruising Speed: 556 kmph
• Range: 7,400 kilometres

Navigation systems:

• Control display unit, used to display all information critical to flight, including speed, altitude, heading
• AN/ARN-508 VOR/ILS/marker beacon, used for enroute navigation and landing
• Embedded global positioning system/Inertial navigation system (EGI), used to provide aircraft position, heading and velocity

Communications systems:

• AN/ARC-511 and AN/ARC-513 very high frequency (VHF) radios, used for line of sight air traffic management and marine communications
• AN/ARC-210 and AN/ARC-234 very and ultra high frequency (V/UHF) radios, used for line of sight data communications and two-way radio communication
• ARC-512 high frequency (HF) radios and Link-11 tactical data Link, used to transmit, relay and receive long range tactical data and communication

Data management system sensors:

• AN/APS-508 multi-mode Imaging radar system, an exceptionally capable detection, tracking and imaging radar system for weather avoidance, maritime and ground-mapping roles
• MX-20 electro-optics/infrared sensor package that allows day and night visual surveillance at extended ranges
• AN/UYS-504 modular VME acoustic sensor processor for analysis of information received from sonobuoys
• AN/ASQ-508 magnetic anomaly detector, used primarily for the detection of submarines
• AN/ALQ-507 electronic support measures (ESM) system, used to identify and locate sources of radio frequency emission

Armament and search stores:

• Mark 46 mod 5 torpedoes, Sonobuoys, Signal charges, Smoke markers and Illumination flares.


• Standard crew complement of 10 members varying according to mission including: two pilots, one flight engineer, two air combat sensor officers and five airborne electronic sensor operators.

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