Airbus eyes fighters, MRTT, satellites for Canada

Jan. 14, 2019, © Leeham News: Airbus Canada worked 10 years to position itself to win an order for 16 C295 FWSAR airplanes from the Canadian government.

Officials hope it won’t be this long for the next big order.

The CASA C295 Fixed Wing Search and Rescue aircraft order was won after a stiff competition. It will replace an aging fleet of SAR aircraft that are long overdue for retirement.

Up next: a replacement for Canada’s air force jet fighters and the fleet of Airbus A310 MRTT tanker-transports.

Fighter competition

Simon Jacques, Head of Airbus Defence and Space Canada, told international media in briefings at the Montreal Mirabel A220 commercial airplane facility today that the request for proposals to replace aging Boeing F-18s is due mid-year.

Airbus will offer the Typhoon fighter. Although Boeing is the incumbent, the trade complaint filed in 2017 by Boeing over the C Series order by Delta Air Lines soured relations with Canada’s federal and Quebec provincial governments. At one point, the government said directly that the complaint would count against Boeing in the fighter competition.

Boeing ultimately lost the complaint. But one result was that Airbus acquired a 50.01% majority of the C Series partnership, saving jobs and boosting sales. It’s now believed Airbus will likely have an advantage in the competition. Eighty-eight aircraft are at stake.

It’s also planning to up the Canadian content and domestic purchases from the Canadian supply chain, Jacques said.

Replacing the A310 tanker

The air force’s aging CC-150 Polaris MRTT is based on the old A310. These aircraft were acquired after the collapse of Wardair and converted to MRTTs. One is used as the VIP transport for the Prime Minister.

Jacques said an RFP for this small fleet is also expected this year. Boeing’s KC-46A may be offered in competition.

Another military program due for replacement is the CP-140. This is Canada’s designation for the Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion.

Airbus may offer a military derivative of the A320neo. Boeing currently offers the established P-8 Poseidon.

Airbus has floated the idea of a military A320 for decades, without ever launching the program.


Airbus Canada also is in talks to develop the LeoVantage Constellation, 300 satellites around the globe for Canadian customer, to potentially build in Canada.

47 Comments on “Airbus eyes fighters, MRTT, satellites for Canada

  1. Of note the Lion Air CVR was recovered, I suspect it only confirms the confusion, video would be better.

    Those various bids could have been Boeing for the taking, now they have nothing.

    I call it using a Minim Mac 10 to shred your foot off.

    • That’s a big assumption, hurt feelings get pushed aside often when it’s deal time.

  2. For the tanker transport requirement , for the USAF the A330 was ‘too big’ while for Canada the extra cargo capacity of the A330 MRTT would suit it better over the KC46.
    the C295 seems to be a good fit for replacing existing fleet of Buffalos and Hercules.
    As for the Typhoon, the twin engines are nominally better for the wilderness/size of Canada. Maybe the existing Typhoon operators could do a deal to take say 24 or so early model planes to get them up and running until the new builds come off the production line.
    But this is Canada, some thing to cause delay will come up.

    • What did suit most A330MRTT costumers was the fact you won’t need a main deck cargo floor to handle cargo. (Nearly) all operators chose standard seating on main deck. That eliminates extra costs for palletized seating and main deck cargo floor.

      767-2C lower cargo bay is occupied by fuel tanks. To transport cargo a main deck cargo handling system was a must. Therefore a KC-46 offers more cargo space than (nearly) all A330MRTT built.

      Australia did already rebuilt used A330-200 into MRTT. Maybe Canada will do the same.

      • not to mention the A330-MRTT has the sloping floor due to short A300 nose gear rather than the A330-200F extended nose gear for a flat floor.

        and the A330-MRTT does not have the reinforced floor of the A330-200F or 767-2C

        • I guess Airbus would have no problem to build an MRTT based on A330-200F. There are also A330-200 P2F without a leveled deck an it works.

          You can make a decent MRTT out of any A332 but a B767 lacks fuel capacity without additional tanks in its belly.

          I don’t know how problematic the main deck cargo door position of KC-46 will be. The door is futher back compared to 767-300F due to a bigger cockpit with a refueling station and permanent seating. This moves the door right in front of the left engine.

          • What I can tell you is that even a 1.5 deg slope on a ramp (drainage) is a problem for the cargo handlers.

            2 Engines: Only in combat are they of possible use, Naval air is an area they are valuable as well.

            If you are at 45k over Candada your glide options are not bad.

            As for the A330MRT, bleah.

            Anyone ever try to deal with cargo in a belly?

            Your stuffing options are severely limited.

            You can forklift a pallet on and off a main deck.

            The real decision really winds up with how they use it.

            The RAAF felt the combo of the A330MRT worked for them. Likely true, they are pretty good knowing their operating setup.

            Canada? I really do not know.

            Issue: Boeing. If I was Candada I would use as few Boeing products as possible without shooting myself in the foot.

          • @Transworld
            About 1,400 A330 have been delivered with the slope and operate for decades with LD3 and palletized cargo on the lower cargo. A full LD3 container at 1,600 kg would push with a force of about 400 Newton (40 kg) at 1.5 deg. Therefore I can’t see a problem for Canadian Air Force to use the lower cargo deck.

          • Want to be in that hold trying to move those around?

          • Alone it would be very hard to move a full container but with two other guys it would be no problem.

            An Canadian MRTT will not opearate on a dialy base as freighter but still far more often than a tanker. Acceptable for a used and cheap aircraft.

            It wouldn’t be acceptable for USAF with a far higher rate of usage.

            A330 P2F get a motorized cargo handling system.

      • Mhalblaub,
        The fact that the KC-46 has a main cargo deck was not driven by the lower deck fuel tanks, although like you say, the lower deck fuel tanks precludes hauling cargo there. Instead the main cargo deck is a must in order to meet the USAF requirement that the KC-X operate seamlessly within it’s logistics system. Restacking 463L pallets to change weight or height, or to transfer cargo into other containers, such as an LD-3, is not acceptable. A fully loaded 463L pallet can be over 7 ft tall and weigh up to 10,000 lbs (4535.9 kg) and requires a main deck cargo door and a main deck cargo floor. That is why the KC-46 has them. Boeing knows that the lower cargo deck is useless to the USAF for hauling cargo, so they used that space to increase the fuel capacity of a smaller aircraft to meet the requirements.

        The A330MRTT lower cargo deck (like lower decks of LCA’s in general) is useless to the USAF according to the KC-X requirements. The lower cargo door is not even tall enough to fit 463L pallets configured at max height for a CH-46. Also, the sloped floor makes loading the heaviest pallets difficult. At a 1.5 deg slope, a 10,000 lb pallet requires 261.8 lbs to counter gravity if friction is ignored. Can you imagine trying to bench press that weight without your back being supported? A powered cargo handling system (with it’s added weight) would be a must, and like TransWorld said: “Want to be in that hold trying to move those around?”. Also, the main deck floor of passenger A330’s slopes even more steeply near the back of the cabin, as it rises at an angle relative to the floor in the rest of the cabin. Apparently this is to allow the lower cargo deck to hold more LD-3’s at the rear where the fuselage gets narrower. This is an even steeper slope when on the ground and makes handling heavy pallets that much more difficult.

        The fact is, there is no Airbus A330MRTT in existence today that would meet USAF cargo handling requirements because they are all based on the passenger version instead of the freighter version. Could Airbus build an MRTT based on the A330-200F? Obviously they can, but it would take both time and money to get it certified. However, there seem to be more air forces around the world that are more serious about moving passengers than moving freight, so for them the A330MRTT works just fine.

        • My comment was about why other nations did choose the MRTT instead of the 767-whatever.

          You are quite wrong about the usage of 463L on an MRTT. Just position the 463L higher than an LD3 on the upper deck and the others on the lower deck. This is a simple operation even for US troops. LD3 height is 162.6 cm / 64 in. Diameter of an F-135 engine is about 117 cm / 46 in. So there is a lot of acceptable cargo on 463L pallets for the lower deck.

          Maximum 463L pallet load is not allowed everywhere on USAF transport aircraft.

          “The fact is, there is no Airbus A330MRTT in existence today that would meet USAF cargo handling requirements ” – There is even no KC-46 in accordance to the RFP today.

          The A330-200F is certified and all military systems on an A330 are certified. So what is not certified for an A330-200F with military systems like refueling pods?

    • A bunch of Austrian Typhoons are “on offer” going by press gyrations here.

  3. The A332 MRTT did win all the fair competitions agains the KC 46.
    That’s why the USA did 3 of them, as long as Boeing won.
    Pretty sure the A332 MRTT is the way to go for Canada.

    For EFA I’m less optimistic. Germany would likley sell a few of its’ slots but the number of 88 will come with the demand of having some parts of the value chain in Canada. I’m not sure if it would make sense for Eurofighter to build another plant.
    Is the F35 offered?

    No clue about the A320 military version.
    The P8 is a well etablished aircraft. Thus I see it as a viable option.

    Overall I can see Trump playing a role in this one, I would guess it’s the P8, EFA and the A330 mrtt

    • why not a CL-415 based replacement for their Buffalos and P-3s? Viking didn’t buy those rights for nothing.

      • Sash: You are stating an opinion on the tanker bids.

        Airbus has bribed people to take aircraft.
        Boeing did the same.

        It does not make it right.

        The First Bid was a legal violation of the RFP. In short, the USAF committed fraud (a variant of bridge, illegal). They should have been sacked.

        The US does not over turn bids lightly, it costs us a billion bucks the way its structured Airbus got those bucks.

        Germany would be happy to let Canada have positions, they just park their aircraft anyway. However its seriously y over priced. Like the Saab is the best bang for the buck vs the F/A 18.

        Yes, if you read the details, the F-35 is in the bid.

        • What a nonsense.

          Was a huge shock when Airbus won the copetition for the tanker. The A330 is the superior aircraft. This is why Boeing went for the B787 finally.
          As the 67 couldnt stand ground.

          Don’t see any relation to bribe.

          Basically the write out was changed till it was the perfect requirements for Boeings proposal. We are not yet over nationalism.

          The Saab is as the Rafale as the Eurofighter a bit older compared to F35. Gripen has one engine, EFA 2.
          EFA does perform better.
          There are around 260 Gripen,
          about 1/3 of EFAs total numbers.
          Rafale will end up at 300 depending a bit on the order from India.

          F35 is a whole differen animal. Different generation. Different set up.

          • Sash: You really need to research you history on the tanker bids.

            The 787 was never offered. Never discussed.

            You do not get what a legal document is, which is what an RFP is.

            In that document there WAS NOT CREDIT for more, bigger, longer, nada.

            The USAF gave the A330MRT credits for those.

            Per the RFP, that is blatantly illeagle.

            The RFP was written for what the USAF asked for and that was a KC135R replacement.

            In fact, the A330MRT was higher on fuel burn, took more ramps space (another RFP item that could not be waivered as did the USAF)

            As for nationalism. Hmm. A400 engine contract anyone?

            I do think the USAF could use a larger tanker, the KC10 needs to be replaced.

            The A330T could do that.

            The vaunted cargo is a waste in American operations. Useful for others but then they can count on (mostly) the USAF having tankers in any arena of serious issue.

            We have 220 C17s and 80 or so C5M. We have a CRFP of freighters we can and do draw on.

            How much does your country spend on defense?

            It it hollow like Germany with 6 subs (the whole fleet) broken because they don’t buy spares?

            The Leopard tanks that are broken and all of 100 working to combat specs? A whole 100.

            Typhoon numbers that are like a squadrons worth that are combat capable?

            It would be nice if NATO Europe had enough wherewithal to deal with a single crummy opponent that is vastly less robust economy than theirs.

          • “By this summer Air Force officials expect Boeing to hit a delivery rate of three to four aircraft each month.”

            Penalty is a possibly 28 million a month until it meets the specs.

          • What credits?

            As Loren Thompson said:
            Northrop Grumman had convinced Air Force evaluators that by doing refueling missions differently they could benefit from buying the bigger plane. That made a certain amount of sense since bigger planes typically are more efficient per pound of payload delivered. “

          • Duke:

            The model took the averages of the tanker missions and the RFP that was proposed used that data.

            Yes I can put another 40 gallons of diesel in the back
            of the Passat, I don’t use it. Why do it?

            In the case of an F-15 or F-16, you can only tank one of those at a time.

            You need more tankers, not tankers with more fuel.

            An RFP (again its a binding legal document) can be written a number of ways. One its written, if you are going to change, all parties have to be notified and protests can be filed, the USAF did none of that.

            As a sidelight, that RFP called for wire bundle separation Boeing missed. The USAF deemed it critical and Boeing had to change it on their dime.

            You can write an RFP that allows exceeding the minimum. This one DID NOT have it.

            In the case of wing span that drives spacing of aircraft, the USAF wavered it for the A330 without notify Boeing that a legal and binding document was being changed.

            You can’t do that either.

            Fuel quantity can be a credit if its written into the RFP. It WAS NOT. USAF gave Airbus that credit.

            When violations occur, the GAO can and did in this case declare it null and void because of those violations.

            In the US its called a big shiny toy. The USAF saw a bigger shiny toy and they think bigger is always better and screwed up the bid giving credits not allowed and waivers not allowed.

            P&W was kicked off the A400 despite meeting the
            RFP on that air craft.

          • @Transworld

            The KC-X competition was not about a KC-135 replacement. There once was a PDF-document online labeled: “KC-X: The Next Mobility Platform: The Need for a Flexible Tanker”
            Written by USAF and it made clear the USAF was looking for a parcel freighter rather than a tanker. Tanking would have been a secondary job for KC-X.

            USAF still has a problem that C-17 is delivering palletized cargo (463L) and troops all other the world. That is not the job for such an aircraft. Tanks and heavy fighting vehicle should be moved be such a valuable asset. The C-17 sucks a huge amount of fuel (less wing area than an A330 but higher MTOW) and maintenance is not that cheap (Boeing got the maintenance contract for KC-135 – late KC-46 …).

            There is a reason why nearly the complete KC-10 were reserved for cargo only missions during the first gulf war (see PDF mentioned above). A C-17 would have needed a tanker aircraft to fly directly but on the other hand the tanker alone could move the cargo without refueling.

            With Northrop Grumman entering the competition with an A330 the first RFP was tilted by whom ever inside the Pentagon more towards a tanker only competition. After the first competition failed to provide the right winner the second competition was cornered into KC-135 replacement without any merits for cargo.

            USAF accepting KC-46 without a fully operational boom is logical because USAF is in need for a cargo lifter to release the C-17 from parcel services.

  4. Boeing P8 seems lowest risk, MRTT has been the winner in all independent competitions, fighters is a big question. Maybe joining a sixt gen program combined with interim solution might benefit Canada most longer term.

    • I’m not sure there really has been an independent competition other than Australia, and that was bid against the KC-767 IIRC. the only “competition” I’m aware of post KC-46 is Japan, an Japan picked the KC-46 (although likely because they already have KC-767s and no real mobility requirement)

      other than that, it was small quantity COTS purchases or Airbus manufacturing countries buying them.

      • MRTT’s are bought by Australia, Belgium, France, Germany , Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, UAE, UK. The third round US (congress) KC767 selection (newly introduced size, cost, no points for capability on top of 767 capability) made the rest of the world chuckle & move on.

        • first throw out all the euro countries, because they are just as corrupt as the US in these things, so you are left with Australia (10 years before KC-46) SK, UAE, Singapore and Saudi. I would say that those 4 are 50% “I can buy it today vs waiting 5 years for the KC-46” and 50% political

          as you (i’m sure) know, there is no such thing as an open competition in the defense world. politics are always at least 50%.

          • The point was South Korea, Singapore, Saudi and Australia have airlines operating A330. So spare parts, pilots and maintanence are easier to get.

            BTW all KC-767 operating countries which ordered from Boeing also build parts for the 767. Brazil ordered used IAI 767 MMTT.

    • I would call Korea an independent bid. Australia as well.

      I can see the RAAF Reasoner the way they operate (and extensive out of area training in the US)

      Korea is a puzzler. Availability might be the driver there. I don’t know how much traveling they do for training in Asia. Have not seen them in AK, not read of RedFlag participation.

      P8 would be the best choice and that may be one where Canada holds Boeing’s nuts to the fire in offset and takes what is the best out there.

      • Similar, France and Germany are looking for an MPA too. The A320M3 might be an option, but an
        A220 based platform could be alternative too. P8 and A320M3 cutaways look pretty empty.. systems have shrunk.

        • I recently read an Article on the Hawkeye. 3 men and crowded and very uncomfortable. Now it has a fuel probe so range extended, ugh.

          Like a tanker, its an extended structural redo.

          And in that structure you need to carry the prosecuting weapons, detection is not the only aspect. And it has to have the loiter time.

          P8 is likely as small as you can get.

          A320 probably could be done as well, but the cost for a duplicate platform?

          With the P8 yo have bulk on your side (large side support USN which was true of the P-3 as well)_

          • “P8 is likely as small as you can get.”

            The Kawasaki P1 is slightly smaller and lighter, yet offers (slightly) better performance numbers in range (in armed configuration), time on station, top speed (cruise speed is more equal) and hard points (8i + 8e vs 5i + 6e).
            The hard part would be to compare the electronics suite, I’m gonna assume the P8 has the upper hand, but it’s safe to say the P1 is much more advanced when it comes to preventing elecro-magnetic interference to it’s sensors.

          • The P1 has the more advanced search radar, using flat plate radars front ,side and rear giving 360 deg coverage. P8 has only a nose radar with a sort of sphere for forward hemisphere

  5. A 251t A332F NEO based MRTT is possible, but so far all went for the standaard one.

    • Possible yes, but it would take a program to change from A330CEO and the certification to do so.

      I would put it in the same weight as a 777-8F (not happening any time soon)

    • only together with ACT style expansion of fuel storage.

      125t OEW + 110t fuel :: for the regular MRTT.
      anything beyond the 238t variant would allow additional freight but that would impact on fuel transferable.

      on the other hand bringing “Milchkuh” like a handful of fighters forward as a quick reaction fighter wing …

      • A330 and A340 share the same wing design and A330 could therefore hold the same amount of fuel like an A340-500: 175 t of fuel.

        • The later 340 models (500/600) had an insert in the wing box design and other changes to allow the big jump in gross weight. Wing box is bigger and that allows more fuel.
          Not really comparable to the sister 330 models

  6. For the maritime patrol aircraft there is another contender, the Japanese Kawasaki P1. This aircraft in many ways is the ideal airplane. It has a better on station capability (longer loiter time, fly lower and slower when hunting for submarines), than the Boeing offering. I believe the P1 it would also similar advantage over the proposed Airbus A320M3. The P1 is available now and the only aircraft currently on offer from “Western” manufacturers designed from the get go for the maritime patrol role. The real advantage of the P8, in my opinion, is the large order that comes with it being the US Navy’s aircraft of choice and also being a B737 airframe with thousands of commercial “cousins” in service or on order.

      • The P1 is a severely limited production aircraft with one off engines. Performance wise its a wash for top speed and cruise.

        Interesting and likely a good aircraft dosing wise, but lack of any commonality with anything else vs a P8 with its common 737 setup would look to be a slam dunk.

        In question of course is real world results. The P8 has no MAD boom and its attack profile is higher. With proliferation of sub S to A missiles that may be a plus.

        With no record of foreign support and the issues that brings, it would look to be iffy though that depends on how angry Canada is at Boeing.

        Cost is higher at about 25 million and how much that would play into it.

      • Thanks for the link, interesting read.

        About size, the P1 stands higher on it’s landing gear and appears larger on that picture, but in wingspan, length (even with the MAD tail, without it it would be a lot shorther) and MTOW it’s smaller/lighter.
        Good point about aerial refueling, which can make a big difference, especially for USN that has a worldwide mission approach.

        I assumed the systems on the P8 would be more advanced as well. Though after reading the article in the link you posted, and combining with previous information, I have to reconsider (I overestimated the P8).
        As an example, the radars on the P1 provide 360* coverage and are more advanced. Also it has an extremely advanced MAD setup. While the US P8 has neither, though I think it could be equiped with an under belly pod that increases capabilities. The Indian P8I has an added rearward facing radar and a MAD though these appear to be significantly less capable than the Japanese.

        Not saying the P8 is a bad project. It combines extreme economy of scale advantages (737) with excellent capabilities. In an extended network that includes capable UAV (for instance having a MAD) it might well be better than the P1.
        The question remains, how well the Japanese will integrate the P1.

        • Agreed a good write and the more I look into the P-1 in depth the more impressed. I figured it was a good P-3, but it looks to be more a P-7 with jet engines.

          I don’t know how to assess the two other than comparable though I am unsure how valid MAD is these days.

          The US has used the P-3 as a combat director in combat theaters ad I think that opened up their eye to what seems a sub hunter but has wider other capability.

          I did disagree with the 737 selection. I always though a modern Herc would do that P-3 mission just fine.

          What the balance between the two is functionality wise ?

          While the initial cost is not that high, the sustainment cost for the airframe and engine will be a lot higher of course.

          Each may serve the two better in their ops than they would doing the others missions (Japan more area oriented and the US world wide)

          The P-8 program is a staged program as well. It had initial capabilities and then they are building the next ones in and retrofitting that to the initial group.

          I am sure Japan will upgrade the P-1 as well but I don’t know if they had the more wide open aspects that the P-8 has.

          Hopefully we never get to find out how good they are at anti sub work. If they achieve that then they have done their jobs.

          Reality with the world in the mess it is the P-8 is going to be used for its other capability all too much.

  7. After repudiation from Boeing and a tarriff attack from the USA, it seems Canada has cast its Aerospace future with Europe. I think defence will go there more and more as well. Typhoon is a somewhat aged platform, but a good one. It would make sense for Canada to buy or lease a fleet of 24 Typhoons, and join the 6G fighter program with Germany/France and Spain. With unmanned tech improving all the time, I think 6G will be optionally manned for sure, and that will suit Canada perfectly. A330 MRTT is perfect for us as we will never have a massive fleet of strategic airlifters. Perhaps we ca do what the UK does and buy 5-7 of them and wet lease them to airlines when not needed (most of the time this is the case)

    • I can’t disagree with the logic but some of the specifics.

      Why NATO does not do what the US does and utilize civilian freighter fleet (and charters) I don’t know. Its a good way for fill in without incurring the costs. A true emergency and its all going to get nationalized for the duration.

      A330MRT may well do the compound mission for Canada as it does for Australia.

      I don’t know the Typhoon is so much aged as over costly. Support is always an issue, that is where the US tends to do a lot better though we have our dips.

      That is why the Grippen E seems to be a better options. Canada seems more attack supplier to NATO than fighter dominance (F/A-18)

      From what I have read, the F-16 has better Target systems than the F/A-18 and much better user friendly.

      Seems pretty odd that a attack aircraft like the F/A-18 that while it can do A to A, is not as well setup as what started out as a pure fighter.

      Grippen E would seem to have very up to date if not stealth performance and well setup.

      Stay tuned, Boeing turned it into politician issue as well. I still don’t believe the stupidity of that.

  8. Canada should really buy Global Eye based on the Global 6000. We really cannot afford both AWACs and maritime survlielce platforms. This does 2 for one with a superbly long enduraance airframe. Probably with some mods it can carry lighetweight torpedos..

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