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New sub-hunter surveillance planes will replace Aurora fleet at 19 Wing Comox

The aging Aurora surveillance planes at 19 Wing in Comox are being replaced by new Boeing-made aircraft, the government announced today.

The federal government has struck a 6 billion dollar deal with Boeing to purchase 16 P-8A Poseidon multi-mission aircraft. The same type of aircraft are in service with the US Navy and other Canadian allies. They are earmarked to replace the 40-year-old Auroras in service in BC and Nova Scotia as maritime patrol aircraft.

In a statement, the federal government says the planes are needed “to defend Canadian interests in our maritime approaches, the Arctic, and internationally, the RCAF needs to be able to identify, detect, track and potentially engage advanced surface and sub-surface threats using an array of highly sophisticated sensors and weapons. The RCAF must have self-protection systems that afford our aviators a measure of survivability against known threats. The P-8A meets these requirements. It will protect Canadians, enhance our Arctic security and national sovereignty, and enable Canada to meet its NATO, NORAD and other obligations well into the future.”

In total 16 planes will be delivered, the first arriving in 2026. All are expected to be in service within 10 years.

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They will take over the Aurora’s role in protecting the longest coastline in the world by detecting security threats, illegal fishing, drug trafficking, and polluters along Canadian coastlines.

“In today’s complex global environment, Canada requires a military that is capable of protecting our country well into the future,” said federal Defence Minister Bill Blair in a press release. “We are committed to ensuring that our current and future aviators have the most advanced equipment possible to do just that. Canada requires a multi-mission fleet to contribute to the safety and security of Canadians and protect the sovereignty of a country with the longest coastline in the world. The Boeing P-8A Poseidon is the right aircraft to fulfil this role.”

The aircraft aren’t just for surveillance. The government says they can perform maritime and overland surveillance with integrated Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR), anti-submarine and anti-surface capabilities.

“These aircraft are not just airplanes, but complex weapon systems capable of transporting and launching multiple sonobuoys, torpedoes, and anti-ship weapons to protect Canada’s water on all three coasts,” says the government.

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In a statement Boeing says the purchase “will benefit hundreds of Canadian companies, and bring decades of prosperity to Canada through platform sustainment delivered by our Canadian industry partners.”

Boeing says the purchase brings benefits of nearly 3,000 jobs and $358 million annually in economic output to Canada, according to a 2023 independent study by Ottawa-based Doyletech Corporation.

“This is a very important day for the Royal Canadian Air Force and for Boeing,” said Charles “Duff” Sullivan, managing director, Boeing Canada. “The P-8 offers unmatched capabilities and is the most affordable solution for acquisition and life-cycle sustainment costs. There’s no doubt the P-8 will protect Canada’s oceans and its borders for future generations.”

Boeing says the P-8 has proven capabilities for anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief response.

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