Canada has taken delivery a new manned reconnaissance aircraft, the first of three examples the country plans to acquire.

The Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) on 23 February revealed it has received a modified Beechcraft King Air 350ER twin-turboprop. 

The type is designated as the CE-145C, according to procurement documents. On 8 March, the DND confirmed the new aircraft’s numerical designation, adding the twin-engined craft will be known by the moniker “Vigilance”.

“These aircraft will provide the Canadian armed forces with a new airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability,” the department says.

Ottawa is acquiring the aircraft under a programme called Manned Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (MAISR), which was initiated in 2018. Delivery of the final two CE-145Cs is expected before the end of 2024.

The Canadian government in 2019 selected Textron, which owns the Beechcraft brand, as the aircraft provider for MAISR. Three King Airs were subsequently purchased through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system.

RCAF King Air 350ER ISR first delivery

Source: Royal Canadian Air Force

Ottawa took delivery in February of the first CE-145C, a new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform derived from the civil Beechcraft King Air 350ER

Those turboprops were provided to L3Harris, which is overseeing aircraft modification, mission systems installation and final delivery of the new MAISR fleet. The exact ISR capabilities of CE-145Cs are not fully known.

Procurement documents indicate the DND’s request for proposal (RFP) under the MAISR programme was not released publicly, owing to security concerns. RFPs typically outline capability requirements for new military aircraft.

However, news outlet Ottawa Citizen in 2023 reported that the militarised King Airs will be “outfitted with sensors and equipment to intercept cellphone and other electronic transmissions”.

The DND on 8 March said the Vigilance fleet will support Canadian special operations forces with sensors and secure communications ”enabling enhanced situational awareness and decision-making during operations on the ground”. 

The 2018 FMS approval announcement from Washington lists a number of advanced electronics, including L3Harris Wescam MX electro-optical/infrared sensors, L3Harris Vortex video transmission modules, a laser and missile warning system and several pieces of equipment for encrypted communications.

That document put the full value of the MAISR package at $300 million, including the three aircraft and mission systems.

The first example of the new CE-145C was delivered to CFB Trenton in southern Ontario, where the King Air fleet will be based.

Until recently, the Royal Canadian Air Force leased several unmodified King Air 350s, which operated from Trenton for pilot training and VIP transport missions. Ottawa on 29 February said it has declined to renew those leases, and will wind down operations for those aircraft by the end of March.

The DND is maintaining a separate lease on a single King Air turboprop to ensure its pilots maintain proficiency on the type, as the new MAISR fleet is delivered.

“Maintaining pilot currency is core to ensuring [safe] flight and will allow us to safely and quickly integrate the aircraft into our fleet,” the DND says.

Ottawa confirms to FlightGlobal that the remaining two aircraft destined for the MAISR fleet are currently with L3Harris in Texas for modification work.

Story updated 8 March to include additional details about the CE-145C Vigilance provided by the Royal Canadian Air Force