Canada announces $8 billion acquisition of 70 new trainer aircraft for Canadian Air Force

The government of Canada will spend C$11.2 billion ($8.1 billion) to modernise the country’s military trainer fleet.

Ottawa on 29 May said it has finalised a contract covering some 70 new trainer aircraft across five different types to support the development of new aviators for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The 25-year deal with SkyAlyne, a joint venture between CAE and KF Aerospace, also covers training services starting in 2029.

“This particular investment will bolster our ability to train a sufficient number of qualified aircrews to meet our operational requirements,” Ottawa says.

The new aircraft include single- and multi-engined turboprops, as well as helicopters, to be procured under the Future Aircrew Training (FAcT) programme, which will replace existing RCAF training contracts with CAE and Allied Wings set to expire in 2028.

Canadian defence minister Bill Blair revealed the new acquisitions at the annual CANSEC defence industry trade show in Ottawa.

“Today’s investments demonstrate that when we work collaboratively with Canadian industry partners, we can provide our troops with the tools that they need to do their jobs – and support good jobs right across Canada,” Blair says.

Canada will acquire 88 new Lockheed Martin F-35As to replace the Boeing F/A-18A as the country’s primary combat fighter

Among the new aircraft will be the Grob Aircraft G120TP and Pilatus PC-21 single-engined turboprops, Beechcraft King Air 260 and De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 twin-engined turboprops and the Airbus Helicopters H135 light helicopter.

Ottawa did not immediately provide details regarding the specific quantity of each type it expects to purchase.

Under the FAcT programme, those five fleets will be used to progress flight trainees toward frontline service units. Ottawa says RCAF personnel will subsequently receive type-specific instruction at those squadrons using operational aircraft, including fighter, transport, surveillance and rotary-wing varieties.

CT-155 Hawk c RCAF

Source: Royal Canadian Air Force

Ottawa has not yet selected a replacement for the now-retired CT-155 jet trainer, the local designation for the BAE Systems Hawk 115.

Pilots, air combat systems officers and airborne electronic systems operators will begin receiving instruction from SkyAlyne under the FAcT contract in the spring of 2029. The curriculum will include classroom, simulator and flight instruction, according to Ottawa.

“We must modernise our training systems as we are modernising our front-line equipment and weapons systems”, says RCAF commander Lieutenant-General Eric Kenny, “to ensure Royal Canadian Air Force personnel can operate and win in highly contested and increasingly complex theatres of operation”.

Notably, one modernisation not covered in the latest procurement announcement is a replacement for the RCAF’s BAE Systems Hawk 115 jet trainers.

Canada retired its fleet of 17 Hawks in March, after just 24 years of service. Ottawa is still developing a programme to replace that single-engined type, with the goal of preparing future trainees to fly Canada’s planned fleet of 88 Lockheed Martin F-35A stealth fighters.

In the absence of a new jet trainer, prospective Canadian fighter pilots will attend training overseas with various NATO allies, including the USA, Finland and Italy. A small number of RCAF instructor pilots will also be stationed abroad to assist in the effort, under an existing NATO partnership programme.

Ottawa is in the midst of what the government describes as the largest recapitalisation of the RCAF since the Second World War, including the new F-35 fighters, Boeing P-8 maritime patrol jets and Canada’s first-ever fleet of large uncrewed aerial vehicles.

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