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Naval Review

CP-140 Aurora Modernization

The Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP): The Future of the CP-140s


During the past few months there has been increasing speculation that the project to upgrade the CP-140 Aurora (the Aurora Incremental Modernization Project or AIMP) would be terminated. The decision by government is expected on 20 Nov 2007.

The Auroras were purchased in the early 1980's and were optimized for the role of maritime surveillance and control with specific emphasis on Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW). The on board sensors also provided a limited capability for secondary roles such as Arctic surveillance and for tertiary roles such as Search and Rescue.

Since the end of the Cold War, other countries with similar aircraft have upgraded their mission systems, sensors and weapons and use these aircraft for multiple missions, most notably for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) in support of ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, while retaining and improving their maritime surveillance and control capability.

The eighteen CP-140 Auroras are currently in the middle of the third phase of an avionics and sensor modernization program, AIMP, begun in 1999 and intended to provide a similar Multi Mission Aircraft (MMA) capability while at the same time enhancing its capability in secondary roles, such as Search and Rescue and as an airborne command and control platform. The first prototype of the AIMP Aurora is currently being fitted out and it was expected that all aircraft would be modified by 2012.

A second project, the Aurora Structural Life Extension Project (ASLEP) was planned, but not funded, to refurbish the aircraft itself to allow it to fly until at least 2025.

Unfortunately, several months ago, DND quietly stopped further work on some elements of the AIMP project. Recently, the CBC reported that: "Defence Minister Peter MacKay on Thursday (20 Sep[2007]) confirmed DND is considering winding down the 30-year-old fleet and replacing it with new planes." The MND was quoted as saying: "We want to make sure we have planes that can fly safely, planes that can continue to play an important role in surveillance,"

On its face, this seems a reasonable position with which most people would agree. However, a number of questions arise:

  • what does the statement mean,
  • what are the alternatives for an Aurora replacement,
  • what are the implications for Canada.

What does the statement mean?

The MND statement implies that the AIMP is being terminated because the Aurora cannot fly safely and cannot continue to play an important role in surveillance. However, the Aurora has flown safely since the 1980's and for a modest investment can continue to fly safely:

  • Each of the eighteen Aurora has flown over 20,000 hours without a single major accident, a tribute to good design, excellent maintenance and superior flying skills.
  • To continue flying safely each Aurora needs certain structural upgrades before the 24,500 hour point if it is to continue to fly safely
  • The cost of this Aurora Structural Life Extension Program(ASLEP) is variously estimated at about $300 to 500 Million for eighteen aircraft (The Norwegians are conducting a similar upgrade to their six aircraft for $85 Million U.S)

With its 1970s era sensors it is true that the current Aurora is not an effective surveillance aircraft in today's environment. However, if the AIMP is completed the Aurora would become arguably the best surveillance aircraft of its kind in the world today - matched only by the Boeing P8 Multi Mission Aircraft (MMA) - a program in which Canada was offered participation but declined because of the CP-140 AIMP program. The multi-mode imaging radar alone, with Canadian developed technology, provides an unequalled capability. Unlike traditional radars, the imaging radar will produce recognizable images of targets on land and sea from long range, greatly increasing its surveillance capability.

As the MMA acronym suggests, the AIMP was designed to provide flexibility in the employment of the Aurora. The project foresaw potential Aurora missions running the gamut from:

  • supporting our troops with ISR information and, potentially, air to surface missiles in combat operations such as Afghanistan,
  • defending the Canadian Arctic against unauthorized surface, sub-surface and industrial intrusions,
  • identifying and tracking drug runners, drift net fishing boats, ships discharging pollutants, and the like, in our Maritime approaches,
  • protecting our warships and Joint Support Ships from the ever increasing threat from submarines,
  • providing airborne search and rescue and co-ordination of domestic disaster relief operations.

The AIMP program is in its final stages - the development of the mission system is complete and the sensors have been procured and are in storage awaiting installation. Having already invested over $1 Billion in AIMP, completion will cost less than $300 Million. So there is little to be saved in cancelling the AIMP - more likely it will cost more in termination payments and lawsuits - witness the infamous New Shipborne Aircraft project where the government paid $500 Million in penalties for cancelling the contract.

So AIMP and ASLEP together might cost about $600 to 800 Million, spread over several years, providing Canada with a capable MMA, useful for years to come. However, it is well known that there is tremendous pressure on the Defence Budget to fund new helicopter programs, the Leopard II tank program, new ship programs and, of course, the war in Afghanistan, so terminating AIMP and not proceeding with ASLEP would serve to free up some funds for those programs.

What are the alternatives?

The Aurora missions listed above are important and consistent with Canada's defence policy objective of providing multi-role, combat-capable forces for the defence of Canada and Canadian interests. So it would seem to be a given that an Aurora replacement would possess similar Multi Mission capabilities, particularly as we have few other resources to do any of these missions - let alone all of them.

However, on 1 Oct, the Ottawa citizen reported that DND was considering replacing the Aurora in the 2016 timeframe with either a derivative of the Bombardier Global Express (modelled on the UK Astor program) or the Multi Mission Aircraft project being developed by Boeing for the USN (the P8 Poseidon, based on a Boeing 737). Additionally, within DND, a third alternative has been mooted - replace/augment the unmodified Auroras with Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), perhaps in combination with the Global Express.

While the P8 satisfies the MMA requirement, the Global Express solution falls well short of the mark. The Global Express ASTOR (or Sentinel R1) is an unarmed, specialized aircraft which, according to the RAF website, "...will provide a long-range, battlefield-intelligence, target-imaging and tracking radar for the RAF and the Army and will have surveillance applications in peacetime, wartime and in crisis operations." Its radar provides a Synthetic Aperture imaging mode and a Moving Target Indicator (MTI) mode. These modes are effective primarily for land based targets and are only two of the five modes available on the AIMP imaging radar.

While some would argue that an unarmed, land surveillance capability is all that Canada requires, those that have fought Canada's wars would likely disagree. It would be akin to providing tanks without guns to the army - they can observe and report on enemy action but cannot engage the enemy - and it ignores the Maritime domain.

UAVs represent an emerging technology with great potential but they are currently used primarily for unarmed surveillance, although there are programs for adding weapons to selected types. However, it is likely to take much longer than 2016 before a UAV could satisfy the scope of missions envisioned for an MMA.

UAVs have proved themselves capable of the ISR mission and sensors similar to those on the AIMP could be placed in a large UAV and provide similar information. Most observers would agree that many Air Force combat roles will, in the future, be fulfilled by UAVs - but we are not there yet.

In the Canadian context, the following limitations are apparent:

  • UAVs have yet to prove themselves in the extreme weather and cold conditions of the Arctic.
  • The command and control infrastructure to effectively control long range UAVs does not exist in Canada
  • Large area surveillance is generally done from high altitude and there is no agreement on how UAVs will operate in airspace shared by civilian airliners. (This is especially problematical for UAVs when changing altitudes which the Aurora does frequently when it is desirable to fly very low to make the point that Canadian Forces are present.)
  • Finally, a UAV's capability is limited to the output of its sensors and the interpretation of the analyst on the ground - the crew in an aircraft adds visual context and judgement to events through direct observation - indeed those who fly the Aurora have many examples of crewmembers visually detecting targets missed by a sensor which happens to be pointed in the wrong direction at the critical moment

It is a central tenet of Air Force doctrine that "flexibility is the key to Air Power". Especially for a small power like Canada, that means that aircraft with multiple capabilities are essential. Given that the "war on terror" is unlikely to be won soon and given the melting of the Arctic icecap, it seems self evident that for the foreseeable future Canada needs all the capability possible to respond to expected and unexpected challenges - from supporting our troops in places like Afghanistan, to detecting land and sea incursions in the Arctic, to protecting our warships and sea lines of communication, to providing disaster response.

While the UAV and Global Express solutions could satisfy some of requirements to varying degrees, they both fail in providing the weapons and sensors for Anti Submarine Warfare.

The Aurora is Canada's only long range, rapid reaction, anti-submarine capability. While many believe the threat from submarines largely ceased to exist after the demise of the Soviet Union, the reality is that only the character of the threat has changed. In fact, more countries than during the Cold War now possess submarines, mostly ultra-quiet diesel submarines, ( Many of those submarines are equipped with Air Independent Propulsion and long range wake homing torpedoes making them serious threats to the interests of a maritime nation such as ours.

If the government accepts General Hillier's plan to acquire Joint Support Ships to support Canadian operations on a global basis, we must be prepared for some of those operations to be opposed by countries with submarines. We have recently seen a Chinese submarine tracking a USN Task Group - just like the Soviets did during the Cold War. The submarine remained undetected until it surfaced, within torpedo range, near the Task Group, ( Effective protection of a naval task group depends on a "defence in depth" approach combining fixed wing aircraft, such as the Aurora, maritime helicopters and ASW frigates.

It is well accepted that during the Cold War everyone with nuclear submarines operated in the Canadian Arctic. As the Northwest Passage becomes more important we should expect more submarine activity, rather than less, complicated by the presence of China's increasingly formidable submarine capability. As it stands, only the AIMP Aurora or the Boeing MMA would be capable of any effective action, augmented by the limited capability of our four submarines.

What are the implications for Canada?

The point of the foregoing discussion is not to argue against a new aircraft program to replace the Aurora. Sooner or later that must be done. Rather, it is to emphasis the conclusion that not proceeding with the AIMP and ASLEP is likely to result in "short term gain for long term pain".

This is so because it is highly unlikely that DND will be able to actually acquire a suitable replacement for the CP-140 by 2016 resulting in an extended capability gap. Indeed, it can be argued that we are suffering a capability gap at the moment because the current Aurora capabilities are already limited by obsolete sensors and equipment maintenance challenges - challenges AIMP will fix beginning in 2009 when the first AIMP aircraft would be operational - at least seven years before a new aircraft could be available.

With the exception of the recent C-17/C-130J programs, where there were no real alternatives, the competitive nature of new aircraft procurement in Canada typically requires much longer than ten years to actually put operational aircraft on the ramp - witness the Sea King replacement program(s) and the "fast-track" Fixed Wing Search and Rescue aircraft project.

Even if it were decided to procure the P8, the aircraft is still under development with a planned production decision in 2013. Given that virtually every similar development program has taken much longer than planned it would be highly optimistic to expect that Boeing could actually deliver to Canada useful numbers of aircraft by 2016. (As a current example, the Maritime Helicopter Project (MHP) is widely believed to be two years behind schedule) In any event, we would be in the queue behind the USN who plans to order in excess of 100 aircraft and Australia who have already committed to the P8.

The CP-140 replacement will be a particularly contentious and politicized procurement because Bombardier will argue that some variant of the Global Express or Q 400 will meet Canadian requirements. Again, recall the MHP procurement once it became politicized. Additionally, our predilection for customizing existing aircraft to satisfy unique Canadian requirements will add to the procurement time.

All of this assumes that Defence is capable of funding and staffing another multi-billion dollar acquisition program - which will need to begin spending for definition work by the end of this year if there is any real expectation of success by 2016.

In a paper published in Air Force Magazine (Vol 31, number 1) Col (ret'd) Terry Chester speaks at length on the usefulness of the Aurora and on the Law of Unintended Consequences. In this case, the unintended consequence of the good intention to replace the Aurora is almost certain to result in a very limited capability for Arctic and Maritime surveillance in the near term and no long range aircraft capable of ASW for many years.

Many will recall that we spent millions of dollars to keep the Sea King flying although it had almost no operational utility because its sensors were either un-repairable or hopelessly obsolete against current threats. Failure to proceed with AIMP will provide a similar result for the Aurora. Both AIMP and ASLEP can be accomplished for $600 - 800 Million which when spread over several years is, in Defence terms, not a bad investment to ensure we have a viable multi mission aircraft while the new aircraft acquisition program plays out.

If, against the odds, DND succeeds in acquiring new aircraft in a timely fashion, the Aurora will still be useful during the transition program and will also provide a showcase for the Canadian technology incorporated in its sensors and mission systems.


The conclusion is clear. Government must re-instate the AIMP and fund the ASLEP immediately. The cost is not great compared to the resulting capability and an upgraded Aurora provides insurance against the inevitable delays in the new aircraft project. More importantly, it allows Canada to maintain an important surveillance capability in a time of rapid change in climate and in national policy in the Canadian Arctic.

Colonel (ret'd) Ed Fairbairn
Defence Analyst
Ottawa Wing, VP International

(VP International is an association of Maritime Patrol aviators whose main purpose is to maintain an organization of airmen to foster goodwill and fellowship among long-range sub-searching patrol and reconnaissance flyers through the promotion of understanding and recognition of VP operations and their impact on military aviation -

Re: Ottawa halts $1.6B upgrade of aging aircraft

The most recent article reporting on the state of Canada's AURORA long-range patrol fleet appeared in the Toronto Star on 20 September in the form of a brief Canadian Press story confirming a CBC News report. The gist of the article is that Ottawa "...has halted a $ 1.6-billion upgrade to extend the life of Canada's aging fleet of Aurora patrol aircraft." Canadian Press adds that the Minister of National Defence, Mr MacKay, confirmed this announcement on Thursday although this confirmation is not evident on the DND website.

There are two projects concerning the AURORA. The first, AIMP (AURORA Incremental Modernization Project) is essentially an upgrade to the aircraft's avionics systems (navigation and communications equipment as well as sensors) while the second, ASLEP (AURORA Structural Life Extension Project), addresses airframe structural issues after 25 years of operational service. AIMP is funded to the tune of $ 1 billion plus and has been in large measure contracted to industry. ASLEP is not funded and is still an unknown liability with estimates of as much as $ 1 billion required to repair the fleet. Presumably, the Canadian Press report about the upgrade cancellation refers to the AIMP project.

This discussion will concentrate mainly on the long-range patrol missions of the AURORA but it must be borne in mind that AIMP and ASLEP promise to give the Canadian Forces an overland strategic surveillance capability for the first time.

Why the Department of National Defence finds itself in the position of cancelling a funded project requires a bit of prodding beneath the headlines. There are two major issues. The first is that the current government has yet to produce its much vaunted "Canada First Defence Strategy" and the second is that funding of the Department remains insufficient to carry out the tasks assigned to it by the Government.

Why does a Defence Strategy matter? Without an agreed defence strategy, decisions, in particular decisions on equipment procurement, are made on the fly to respond to the priorities of the day rather than long-term objectives.

How does that apply in the case of the AURORA? In April 2004, the Martin government produced a National Security Policy (NSP) entitled "Securing an Open Society." While this policy has not been endorsed by the Harper government, it does provide a useful guideline to Canada's national security interests. In Chapter 6 (Transportation Security) of the NSP, a six-point plan to strengthen marine security is described. Points three and five relate to aerial surveillance and cooperation with the United States in enhancing what is termed marine domain awareness that is knowledge of what is above, on and under the ocean areas contiguous to North America.

While progress on the six-point marine security plan has been made, especially with respect to the establishment of multi-agency Marine Security Operation Centres, much remains to be achieved, especially in the area of marine domain awareness. What is required is a National Plan for Marine Domain Awareness which would address the following five questions:

  • What information is required?
  • In which geographic area will it focus?
  • To what level of confidence will it operate?
  • By whom will the information be acquired and assessed?
  • To whom will the assessed information be provided?

Based on such a plan, the government would establish priorities for the respective Federal Departments which would then be translated into departmental documents such as a Defence Strategy. In other words, top down direction as opposed to bottom-up ad-hockery.

How does this all tie in to the AURORA? The AURORA is the only platform currently available to the Government of Canada to carry out long-range patrol and response missions. It is also the only platform that will be available for these missions for the next five to ten years. Regrettably, because the Government has been unable or unwilling to establish priorities, there is no operational requirement which would convincingly establish the necessary priority to carry out both the AIMP and ASLEP projects since there is not enough funding to address all the critical deficiencies in the Armed Forces.

This leads us to the second major issue, that of funding. While there has been much lamenting the decade of underfunding of the Armed Forces under the Liberal Government, the plain fact of the matter is that the Armed Forces have been underfunded under both Conservative and Liberal governments. As Senator Kenny has observed, the Armed Forces remain dangerously underfunded despite recent increases. For example. within the Air Force alone, in addition to the Cyclone shipborne helicopter and the C-17 strategic airlifter, there are six major procurement projects, one of which is a proposed manned multi-mission aircraft which will eventually replace the AURORA.

In summary, the Government of Canada is facing a dilemma that could result in the elimination of an essential capability if the decision is taken to cancel AIMP and not proceed with ASLEP. A similar decision taken to eliminate the CHINOOK helicopters, principally to address funding issues, indicates the perils of losing a capability only to discover years later that it is critically needed.

Decision on Maritime Patrol Aircraft Replacement Delayed.

Ken Hansen
Forum Moderator

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.

Aurora's Wings Clipped?

Colonel (ret.) Ernest Cable, OMM, CD

The Canadian Forces took delivery of the first CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft in May 1980; the 18th and last CP-140 was delivered in August 1981. The original requirement for 24 aircraft was unilaterally reduced by the Trudeau government without a commensurate reduction in tasks to be performed. Consequently, the Aurora was employed at roughly twice the rate of similar P-3C aircraft flown by other nations, resulting in reaching its 20,000 hour estimated life expectancy sooner than planned.

By the mid-1990's, airframe fatigue, obsolescence, and shortage of spare parts for 20-year old electronics led, in 1998, to a modernization program designed to replace most of the Aurora's avionics and sensors with state-of-the-art systems. The program would not only restore the aircraft's impressive maritime capabilities but also provide new dimensions in surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering. The new Aurora would be a truly national strategic surveillance aircraft capable of operating over land or sea anywhere in the world. Ideally, the new avionics and sensors should have been installed while each Aurora underwent its regularly scheduled third line inspection and repair routine under an omnibus Aurora life extension program. But, because of fiscal considerations the government decided on a phased approach known as the Aurora Incremental Modernization Program (AIMP).

The AIMP is made up of 23 separate projects grouped into four blocks, requiring each aircraft to be processed through the IMP plant in Halifax four times. Currently, up to five aircraft are under modification at any one time. Initially, the estimated cost of the modernization program was approximately $1B. Originally scheduled for completion in 2008, completion has slipped to 2012 and the total cost has escalated to just under $1.5B.

Block 1, which consisted of a number of legacy projects to address regulatory and compliancy deficiencies, has been completed. Canadian Marconi Corporation and Thales Systems Canada have completed engineering for the Block 2 Navigation and Flight Instrument Modernization Project (NFIMP) and the Communication Management System (CMS). All the NFIMP and CMS avionics have been purchased for 18 aircraft and IMP has completed installation for Block 2 avionics on five aircraft.

General Dynamics Canada has completed the engineering design for Block 3, a Data Management System (DMS). The initial DMS avionics have been purchased for testing in the first aircraft. IMP estimates the final DMS installation will be completed by 2012, with the last Aurora being operational in 2013. All of the Block 3 Electronic Support Measures (ESM) and acoustic detection system electronics have been delivered.

Block 4 is the second phase of the DMS modernization and includes upgrades to the Magnetic Anomaly System and installation of a Defensive Electronic Warfare System. Block 4 also affords an opportunity to upgrade avionics installed during previous Blocks and to correct any residual problems.

The AIMP will give the Aurora a superior maritime, arctic, and overland surveillance capability that will be operationally effective for the next two decades. If Canada is to enforce sovereignty over its debated jurisdiction of the North, it will require the capability to exercise a national presence and monitor shipping navigating the Arctic. Currently, the AIMP Aurora is Canada's only surveillance platform capable of providing these functions year-round. Similarly, its new overland capabilities will relieve Canada of reliance on its allies for strategic surveillance for its expeditionary forces.

Corrosion that compromises the structural integrity of the Aurora's wings and horizontal stabilizers was found during routine third-line inspection and repair activity. In 2000, a follow on structural assessment program, a shared venture with Norway and other P-3C nations, confirmed a fleet-wide corrosion problem that will render all aircraft unsafe in 2012-2015. An Aurora Service Life Extension Program (ASLEP) will be required to extend the life of Canada's 'high mileage' aircraft until 2025. The cost is estimated at $25M per aircraft, $450M for the fleet. The near $2B total cost for AIMP and ASLEP prompted Air Command to investigate joining the U.S. Navy's P-8 Poseidon Multi-purpose Maritime Aircraft (MMA) program. This option was rejected in 2005 because the P-8 would not be available to Canada until 2015 - 2020 and because the cost would exceed significantly the combined price for AIMP/ASLEP.

To make saving on personnel and operations, Air Command has already disbanded three squadrons. These savings were quickly consumed by the acquisition of C-17 and C-130J transport aircraft and H-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. These new costs forced a fiscal review of all capital programs. In October 2007, the government suspended the ASLEP and Block 3 of the AIMP.

Meaningful savings in the AIMP will be difficult to realize. Close to $1B of the $1.5B dollars in the program have been spent on non-recurring design and engineering costs and electronics. The only significant remaining cost is installation of the electronics by IMP. DND is faced with the conundrum of having spent close to a billion dollars, to date, on AIMP to make the Aurora's sensors viable until 2025; but, belatedly found that the Aurora airframe will be airworthy only until the 2012-2015 timeframe.

One obvious solution is to approve the ASLEP. Another less costly option is to reduce the Aurora fleet size and implement AIMP/ASLEP in only 12-16 aircraft. Another option is the acquisition of Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV's) to either replace or supplement a reduced Aurora fleet.

The personnel and operations costs for UAV's are significantly less than for manned aircraft. However, in short, the cost of any UAV depends on the range and altitude at which it is required to operate and the sophistication of the surveillance sensors to be employed. While some UAV's can remain aloft for 24 hours, trials have indicated that they have difficulty coping with severe winter weather over the North Atlantic and North Pacific and they have yet to demonstrate any capability in the Arctic. UAV's are also slower (250 knots), resulting in reduced responsiveness. UAV's also have no underwater surveillance capability. Compared to the Aurora, the UAV's greatest disadvantage is its inability to spontaneously react to multiple targets and to assume an on-scene command and control role with cooperating forces. A UAV's mission flexibility, the ability to re-task it in flight, is dependant upon sophisticated guidance and control links to geo-synchronous satellites. Additionally, satellites supporting UAV operations require sufficient bandwidth to down-link surveillance imagery to a ground station for real-time analysis. UAV cost versus benefit analyses will have to include the acquisition and operation of a compatible Canadian satellite(s) or the user fees to access allies' satellites with the required specialized capabilities.

The U.S. Navy has addressed its expanding surveillance requirements by developing a world-wide Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) capability. The P-8 MMA and UAV's are two of the fundamental components of BAMS. The UAV's will operate from five locations around the globe to provide persistent (up to 30 hours continuously) surveillance over ocean areas and littoral waters of interest; while the P- 8's will fly from the current USN air bases around the world to provide the maritime patrol and response roles for targets of interest, including underwater surveillance.

Canada has the option of meeting its future surveillance needs by following Australia's lead and joining the BAMS program. Canada would require its own aircraft with the capabilities of the AIMP Aurora and a small fleet of suitable UAV's. If, as a result of the fiscal review, the government decides to clip the Aurora's wings by not pursuing Block 3 of the AIMP and some form of a ASLEP, then a new aircraft, such as the P-8, will be required.

The Canadian government appears to have two options to maintain a national surveillance capability. It can continue with the AIMP and take advantage of the nearly $1B already spent and commit to a structural life extension program. This will keep the Aurora viable until 2025, when a new aircraft will be required. Its second option is to cancel the AIMP, absorb the costs already expended, pay the cancellation penalties, and attempt to stretch the Aurora's life expectancy to the 2015 - 2020 timeframe. The savings could be applied towards a new aircraft, such as the USN's P-8. This would have the advantage of being BAMS compatible and having a life expectancy to at least 2045.

Regardless of the decision taken, Canada cannot afford to have a surveillance gap between the end of the current Aurora capability and its successor. The lack of surveillance over national areas of interest would not only jeopardize Canadian sovereignty but also result in a loss of a perishable expertise in surveillance.

At least some Aurora's are save from the Chopping Block

J. Mathew Gillis

It seems that these birds have escaped the chopping block for now, and the government will opt for a compromise on the AIMP continuation option that Col. Cable identified.

On December 18, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced that at least ten CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft are to resume their modernization and will fly until 2020. Upgrades are to continue on "radar, computer and other systems" as well as "core structural" components. I can't find anything indicating what exactly will happen to the remaining eight CP-140s at this time.

A news release from the government can be found here.

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