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Only one bidder has qualified so far to provide the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) with its next strategic transport and air-to-air refueling aircraft.
Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) on April 1 released a list of qualified suppliers to participate in the next phases of the RCAF’s Strategic Tanker Transport Capability (STTC) project, and only Airbus Defence and Space and its A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) made the cut.
Boeing and the KC-46 Pegasus, a militarized variant of the 767 widebody, was informed the aircraft did not qualify for the project to replace the current fleet of five CC-150 Polaris aircraft.
The decision does not entirely eliminate the KC-46 from future consideration. In posting the qualified supplier list, PSPC said the government “may, at its sole discretion, re-open” the invitation to qualify phase and share documents with any new entrants.
In a statement, Boeing said it was disappointed with the decision, but “we will remain ready to bring the full depth and breadth of Boeing to our offer in the event Canada decides to reopen the bidding process.”
The company noted that the “KC-46 offers superior interoperability, supportability, and affordability along with a robust industry plan that would bring real, guaranteed jobs to companies all across Canada. With 183 aircraft on order and growing international interest, we expect the global fleet to surpass 200 aircraft by 2029.”
Airbus has offered the A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, which the company called “the only new generation, combat- proven, multirole tanker available.”
“It is certified to operate with the majority of western receivers, including Canada’s current fighters, transport, and mission aircraft,” Simon Jacques, president of Airbus Defence and Space Canada, said in a statement.
The A330 MRTT has over 250,000 flight hours with 13 nations, “including key NATO allies and Five Eyes partners such as Australia and the United Kingdom,” he noted.
The government’s invitation to qualify was issued on Feb. 12 to identify respondents able to meet the STTC project’s security and other core requirements before moving to the tender phase. Only qualified suppliers will be invited to participate in workshops and one-on-one sessions to refine the aircraft requirement and respond to an eventual request for proposals to be issued by fall 2021.
The RCAF is seeking a multi-role platform that can be configured for air-to-air refueling, personnel airlift, strategic government transport, aeromedical evacuations, and freight movement, among other roles. The aircraft may also be used to support disaster relief, search-and-rescue and contributions to peace operations; it must also include the capacity to detect, avoid, and defeat air-to-air and ground-to-air threats. In its tanker role, the aircraft must be able to refuel allied fighter jets on NATO and NORAD operations.
The current fleet of CC-150s, a modified variant of the Airbus A310-300, were acquired in 1992 from Canadian Airlines, and two were converted to tankers in 2008. The fleet is operated by 437 Transport Squadron at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario.
The government has engaged BDO Canada as a fairness monitor for the procurement, PSPC said.