Ottawa will spend $10.4-billion on a new fleet of Boeing maritime patrol aircraft, a sole-source purchase that will replace Canada’s aging surveillance planes amid rising threats in the Arctic and elsewhere.
Canadian officials on Thursday said they have signed an agreement with the U.S. government for 14 Boeing BA-N P-8A Poseidon aircraft, with an option for two more. The first deliveries are expected in 2026 with the final planes arriving about a year later, Defence Minister Bill Blair said at a news conference in Ottawa.
The Boeing Poseidon, based on the 737, is used by eight of Canada’s allies, including the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. It has advanced weapons and sensor systems with anti-submarine and surface-combat capabilities.
Mr. Blair told reporters the Boeing Co. aircraft will ensure Canada’s military is able to exceed the threats posed by China, Russia and others while upholding the military’s commitment to Canadians.
“The world has become a more dangerous place,” Mr. Blair told reporters. He pointed to the rising number of incursions in the Arctic, Canada’s encounters with China in the South China Sea and Russia’s war on Ukraine. “We have an obligation to provide the armed forces with the tools they need to do their jobs and to keep Canadians safe,” he said.
The new fleet will replace Canada’s CP-140 Aurora planes made by Lockheed Corp. 40 years ago. The Aurora, whose service has been extended through various updates, will reach the end of its life by 2030.
Mr. Blair said the Aurora has served Canada well, but its time is almost up. It has hunted submarines, tracked illegal fishing and polluters, protected Arctic sovereignty and helped bust drug runners, he said. “But the Aurora is becoming increasingly difficult to support, expensive to sustain and less suited to operating in today’s threat environment.”
The purchase price includes up to US$5.9-billion for the Poseidon aircraft, training devices and setup. The rest of the cost covers weapons, training simulators and other items. The planes are not commercially available and are bought through the U.S. government. The fleet will be based in Greenwood, N.S., and Comox, B.C.
However, the purchase has angered Montreal-based Bombardier Corp. BBD-B-T, which has been pushing the government to allow it and partner General Dynamics Corp. to compete to supply a rival patrol aircraft. Bombardier spokeswoman Louise Solomita said in a statement the company is “disappointed” Ottawa did not seek competitive bids before awarding “a generational contract without an open and fair competition.”
Bombardier has told The Globe and Mail it is prepared to make a patrol aircraft based on its Global 6500 jet, and General Dynamics would supply the sensor technology. Ms. Solomita said Bombardier’s aircraft would be less expensive to buy and operate, and its manufacture would “create and sustain” more than 22,000 jobs. She declined to provide details.
However, politicians at the news conference on Thursday dismissed those efforts, saying the Boeing plane is the only one that is ready-made, proven and meets the military’s requirements.
“There is no [Bombardier] aircraft currently,” Mr. Blair said. “We are talking about either choosing the only aircraft that meets all of our operational requirements or pursuing a developmental option.” He said there is a “high degree of uncertainty” about Bombardier’s delivery schedule, cost and capabilities. “I would contrast that with … the only available aircraft that meets the requirements [of] the Royal Canadian Air Force,” Mr. Blair said.
Canadian officials said Boeing has committed to investing an equivalent of $5.4-billion in Canada over 10 years, using Canadian suppliers and supporting 3,000 jobs. In a statement, Boeing said the Poseidon’s Canadian suppliers include GE Aviation Canada and CAE Inc.
The aircraft will be assembled in Kansas and Washington State.