Canadian business jet manufacturer Bombardier is teaming with defence contractor General Dynamics to develop a possible replacement for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF’s) Lockheed Martin CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft.
In a joint statement issued on 18 May, Bombardier and General Dynamics said they will collaborate on a bid for the Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft (CMAA), which seeks to expand the capabilities of the ageing Aurora fleet.
The move challenges Boeing, which until recently appeared to have a lock on the programme.
Bombardier’s Global 6500 jet, which the company produces domestically, will be the foundation for its bid. General Dynamics would be responsible for integration of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission systems.
“The foundation for the [CMMA] team’s solution is the highly efficient and agile Global 6500 aircraft, the right-sized jet for the CMMA, with next-generation engines, long range, high endurance, and coupled with proven reliability and better fuel efficiency,” the two companies say.
“This platform provides the very latest in airborne mission management technology while ensuring Canada’s continued leadership in the ASW and ISR domains,” they add.
Ottawa announced the CMMA programme in February 2022, noting its fleet of 15 CP-140s had been procured in 1980 and are scheduled for retirement in 2030.
CP-140 is Canada’s designation for Lockheed’s P-3 Orion maritime patrol craft. The type was developed for the US Navy (USN) and remains in service around the world.
The USN has retired all of its active duty P-3s, replacing them with Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon, a derivative of the airframer’s 737-800 commercial airliner. Boeing put forward the P-8 as a contender for CMMA shortly after Ottawa announced the programme in 2022.
Until the recent Bombardier announcement, Boeing was the only viable contender for the contract. On 27 March, the Canadian government revealed that no other suitable proposals had been submitted.
“Following engagements with industry and Canada’s closest allies, the government has determined that the P-8A Poseidon is the only currently available aircraft that meets all of the CMMA operational requirements, namely anti-submarine warfare and [ISR],” the Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) agency said.
At the time, Ottawa said it was submitting a formal Foreign Military Sales request to the US government for the purchase of up to 16 P-8As. PSPC noted that the letter of request did not constitute an official contract or commit Canada to a deal with Boeing.
The P-8 is in service with the USA, UK, India, Australia and Norway, according to Cirium data. South Korea, New Zealand and Germany are also customers awaiting delivery of the aircraft, according to Boeing.
Bombardier and General Dynamics are now calling on PSPC to open a “competitive, fair and transparent procurement process” for the CMMA, known as a request for proposal (RFP).
With Ottawa seeking to expand its domestic aerospace and defence sectors, the emergence of a credible offer from a Canadian company is sure to attract attention from the government. Under Canada’s Industrial and Technological Benefits policy, certain defence contracts are required to support the creation of local jobs and economic activity.
Boeing produces P-8s at its sprawling facilities near Seattle. The type, which has 86% commonality with the 737NG, according to Boeing, begins life on the airframer’s production line in Everett, Washington. After modifications are made to the standard 737 airframe, finishing and integration work takes place at Boeing Field, south of downtown Seattle.
Bombardier assembles civilian Global 6500s near Toronto. The company says that would also be the case for CMMA airframes.
Bombardier declines to reveal specifics about plans for CMMA mission systems integration, saying it would be “premature” to share any details until Ottawa has opened a formal competition.
“We would be ready to move forward on those details once we understand what would be in a government RFP,” Bombardier says.