Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand recently traveled to the US to meet with Boeing officials to discuss military programs. Reports suggest the possible sale of 14 P maritime patrol aircraft was among the topics discussed. -8A valued at about C$9 billion (US$6.6 billion). An Ottawa Citizen report indicated that Anand is pushing for the P-8A deal.
— Anita Anand (@AnitaAnandMP) February 9, 2023
Canada published a year ago a request for information for a new Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft (CMMA) to replace the current fleet of 14 CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft. According to the RFI, the definition of the project will begin in 2025 and its execution in 2029. Initial operational capability is planned for 2034, and full operational capability for 2040.
Boeing then issued a statement saying that it was offering its P-8A Poseidon for the program. The P-8A is in service with the US Navy and the armed forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, India, Norway, South Korea, and Germany.
For several months it was rumored that Canada was considering the possibility of acquiring an exclusive P-8A to replace the CP-140. Bombardier’s Canadian aircraft company officials have urged the government to call a tender to replace the Aurora fleet.
Bombardier has claimed that its Global 6500 series business jet would be a good fit for the CMMA program, and the company’s president said a Canadian-built option should be in the running to replace the CP-140.
It is not the first time that Canada has thought of buying P-8As from Boeing. At one point, Ottawa hoped to start replacing the fleet of CP-140s as early as 2016. At the time, Royal Canadian Air Force officials were calling for a fleet of new P-8As, but there were insufficient funds to purchase them. The Department of Homeland Defense ultimately delayed the CP-140 replacement effort and released a series of upgrades to keep CP-140s flying well into the 2030s.
In 2018, Canada also joined the Maritime Multi-Mission Aircraft (M3A) forum, a NATO effort to share resources and knowledge to develop a new maritime patrol aircraft. However, this move did not commit Canada to a takeover program.
Ottawa recently had a falling out with Boeing after the company claimed the Canadian government was subsidizing Bombardier’s CSeries commercial jet. At the time, Canada modified a bid for a new fighter jet, for which Boeing was offering its Super Hornet, in order to penalize any bidder who harmed the country’s economic interests. The amendment was directed directly at Boeing. Anand’s meeting with Boeing officials suggests both parties may be willing to mend the relationship.
In choosing a new aircraft, Ottawa will have to weigh the benefits of the increased capabilities it wants against the cost of a larger platform. The procurement of new F-35s should be completed by the time the procurement of a new maritime patrol aircraft begins, which could free up some funding, but Canada will only be in the early phase of purchasing expensive new frigates.
Ottawa also plans to increase defense spending after Russia invades Ukraine, but the government has not outlined where most of that money will go.