Canada takes delivery of new King Air 350ER-based surveillance aircraft | News

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

The Canadian Department of National Defense (MDN) revealed on February 23 that it had received a modified Beechcraft King Air 350ER twin-turboprop.

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

“These aircraft will provide the Canadian Armed Forces with a new airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability,” says the ministry.

Ottawa is acquiring the aircraft through a program called Manned Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (MAISR), launched in 2018. Delivery of the last two CE-145Cs is planned before the end of 2024.

In 2019, the Canadian government chose Textron, owner of the Beechcraft brand, as an aircraft supplier for MAISR. Three King Airs were subsequently purchased through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system.

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

Procurement documents indicates that DND’s Request for Proposals (RFP) under the MAISR program has not been made public due to security concerns. Requests for Proposals typically outline capability requirements for new military aircraft.

However, the media Citizen of Ottawa in 2023, it was reported that militarized King Airs would be “equipped with sensors and equipment to intercept cell phones and other electronic transmissions.”

On March 8, DND said the Vigilance fleet would support Canadian special operations forces with sensors and secure communications “enabling improved situational awareness and decision-making during field operations.”

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

This document estimates the total value of the MAISR program at $300 million, including the three aircraft and mission systems.

The first example of the new CE-145C has been 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 declared on February 29 that it had refused to renew these leases and will terminate operations of these aircraft by the end of March.

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

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

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

Article updated March 8 to include additional details on the CE-145C Vigilance supplied by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Robert Butler

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