Decision on maritime patrol aircraft replacement delayed

I would like to bring two important news items to the attention of our readers.

First, a CBC report indicates that the Canadian government’s self-imposed deadline on a decision to replace the CP-140 Aurora aircraft has now been delayed from 20 November to 18 December, which is four days after the Parliamentary Christmas Break is due to begin. This delay could be linked to the pending release of the Conservative’s much-delayed Canada First Defence Strategy, which is rumoured to be made public in mid-January 2008.  Further delays of the Aurora decision could indicate that the Canada First Strategy is (still) unfinished, or that ever-rising expenses related to operations in Afghanistan (see below) are causing cascading effects for military operations at home.

The air force is said to be looking at two aircraft to replace the CP-140: the American-built P-8A Poseidon; and the British-built Airborne Standoff Radar (ASTOR), a ground surveillance system that will be known as Sentinel R1 in RAF service. While the P-8A is a conventional maritime patrol aircraft, ASTOR is principally a land battlefield system with (presumably) naval applications.  The system is an upgraded version of the Raytheon ASARS-2 side-looking synthetic aperture radar and is mounted on a Bombardier Aerospace-Short Brothers Global Express long-range business jet.  The radar is capable of operating in all weather and of providing picture-quality images at ranges of up to 160 km and at altitudes up to 47,000 feet.  The first Sentinel R1 aircraft was delivered to the RAF in June 2007 with the remaining aircraft to be delivered by the end of this year.  Operational status of the R1 is expected by the end of 2008.  The P-8A, which is based on the next-generation version of the Boeing 737 Model 800 airliner, is currently in development for the USN with delivery of the first pre-production aircraft for flight testing due in 2009.  Final decisions on the production and delivery of this aircraft are not due until 2013.

Second, CBC reports that sovereignty patrols of the Arctic by the air force have been suspended, probably until the spring of 2008.  Prof. Dan Middlemiss, Director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, speculates that the reason behind the reduced flying plan is a funding shortfall due to the spending required to sustain military operations in Afghanistan.  The report states that only six of the fourteen Auroras based in Greenwood are able to fly, with the remainder in various stages of disassembly due to the now-aborted modernization programme.