The Government of Canada today announced it is procuring two new Bombardier Challenger 650 aircraft for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to replace its two Challenger 601 utility aircraft.
The replacement allows for the continuation of mission-critical roles conducted by the current Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CC-144 Challenger fleet. The two retiring aircraft that entered service in the 1980s, fall short of operational requirements and are nearly obsolete due to new rules in the United States & Europe that will restrict their ability to fly internationally before the end of this year.
The value of the contract for the two aircraft, initial training and spare parts is approximately $105 million. Delivery of the two new Challengers is expected during the summer of 2020 with an initial operational capability (IOC) targeted for fall 2020.
“This purchase is another example of our government’s commitment to provide the Canadian Armed Forces with the modern equipment they need to carry out the critical work we ask of them. This fleet is a crucial operational capability and ensuring its continuity is another important investment in our women and men in uniform,” said Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence
“While helping to fulfill the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) operational requirements, this purchase also demonstrates our commitment to Canada’s world-class aerospace industry. Having this ready, off-the-shelf option also offers long-term value to the RCAF and to Canada,” said Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC).
The replacement ensures CAF can continue to operate a modern and flexible utility flight service fleet that serves a variety of roles – including reconnaissance and liaison missions with international partners, and the speedy deployment of specialized capabilities and expertise, including the Disaster Assistance Response Team.
The CAF’s existing Challenger fleet consists of four aircraft, two purchased in the early 1980s and two purchased in the early 2000s. With the implementation of new international regulatory and interoperability requirements in 2020, only half of the fleet is fully compliant with international standards.
The fleet is used for the medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) of military personnel serving overseas and the safe transport of CAF medical personnel and specialized equipment in the critical first few hours and days of someone being wounded. They are also used for the safe extraction and repatriation of personnel and citizens.
The fleet further provides the ability to transport specialized teams from Canada to operational theatres around the world. This fleet is also critical in facilitating the travel of senior government officials, including the Governor General and the Prime Minister, as well as Parliamentarians from all parties due to security and safety considerations.
On average, about 80 per cent of annual flying hours for the Challenger fleet are used in support of Utility Flight Services which contribute to CAF operations, training, and liaison functions. Earlier this month, a Challenger quickly brought Royal Canadian Navy search experts to Naples, Italy, to support the search for the Cyclone helicopter lost in the Ionian Sea.
The Challenger fleet is maintained by Transport Canada technicians and operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force out of the Ottawa International Airport.