Canadian special forces will receive three new surveillance aircraft from the U.S. with the planes expected to arrive in 2022.
The three Beechcraft King Air planes, to be based at CFB Trenton in Ontario, will be outfitted with sensors and equipment to intercept cell phone and other electronic transmissions. Canadian special forces and, potentially, other government departments will use them for missions overseas and in Canada.
The agreement for the aircraft was finalized on April 26 with the U.S. government. Three aircraft and equipment will be delivered in the spring of 2022, the Canadian Forces noted.
The federal government is also setting up a competitive process to select a company to maintain the aircraft and related systems for a potential period of 20 years. A Request for Proposals is expected sometime this summer.
The agreement signed with the U.S. government is for $188 million (CAN).
The value of the project is estimated at $247 million. The funding includes the acquisition of the aircraft and prime mission equipment from the U.S. and an initial portion of the associated in-service support of the aircraft.
The main contractor is Beechcraft in Wichita, Kan.
Canadian companies had wanted to provide the aircraft and on-board equipment, and several have formed alliances with U.S. firms who supply the Pentagon with the same or similar aircraft.
But the Canadian military decided it needed the planes more quickly than they believed Canadian companies could deliver, and that U.S. security regulations governing the on-board sensor equipment might cause delays. As a result, it determined the U.S. government was the only supplier capable of providing the planes.
DND has declined to provide an estimate of what that long-term support would cost taxpayers.
RCAF pilots will fly the aircraft but members of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command will operate the specialized equipment in the planes.
The planes will be outfitted with electro-optical sensors that would allow the aircraft to track the movement of individuals and vehicles on the ground. Canadian special forces had access to similar aircraft in Afghanistan to track and target insurgents.
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