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April 2006

The CP-140 Aurora is Canada’s only strategic airborne land and sea surveillance aircraft. A “Siamese-twins” platform of sorts, the Aurora combined the sturdy P3 Orion airframe and the S3 Viking ASW avionics package into a distinctly Canadian military platform.  Acquired in 1980 amidst the need for a state-of-the-art antisubmarine warfare (ASW) platform to replace the CP107 Argus, 18 Aurora’s were equipped with the most advanced ASW package in the West at that time.

With the end of the Cold War, the Aurora, with its impressive range of over 9,000 kilometres, reduced its ASW duties to take up the role of the long-range patrol aircraft for the Canadian military. To this day the Aurora performs maritime patrol duties on a regular basis and monitors, albeit on a more infrequent basis, Canada’s Arctic waters for trespassers.

Yet, the frequency of its use in patrol missions has been hindered in recent years due to a stark reduction in allocated yearly flying rates (13,241 hrs in 1996-97; 7,874 hrs in 2003-04). Also, despite many attempts to implement upgrades to its avionics during the first 20 years of its service, budgetary restrictions meant that the Aurora’s systems of mid-1970s mission computers and sensors began to reach obsolescence.

Starting in 1998, the Aurora Incremental Modernization Program (AIMP) was begun by the Department of National Defence to bring the Aurora, as Canada’s frontline long-range patrol apparatus, into the 21st century so that it could continue to perform safely in its traditional maritime roles, as well as expand to new roles such as over-land surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence-gathering. Such tasks would become regular for the Aurora platform following the September 11th attacks both at home and through its deployment to the mysterious overseas Canadian Forces base, CAMP MIRAGE, to support Operation Apollo (the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2003). 

At a cost of $1.45 billion CAD and due to be completed by 2010, the AIMP is divided into four distinct blocks of upgrades, combining a total of 23 individual projects. It is an important program for the 18 Auroras, many of which are surpassing the 20,000 individual flying hour plateau, and all of which remain in service without incident to this day.

Block I:

Will replace/upgrade the high frequency radio gear, cockpit voice recorder, flight data recorders, and SRX antennae associated components (SRX is a technology that increases the range of the antenna).

Block II:

The Navigation Capability Group of systems (such as the flight direction indicator, global-positioning system, and Aircraft Collision Avoidance System) will be upgraded during this block of the AIMP.

Block III:

Upgrade of the Communications Capability Group through three new VHF/UHF radios, VHF/FM modernization, and a new satellite-communications-based radio will be performed. Furthermore, the Data Management System and Sensor Capability Group will also be upgraded.

Block IV:

This block is planned to incorporate a new defensive early warning system (DEWS) and a stand-off air-to-surface missile system. Extensive software upgrades to Block III components will also be performed.

CP-140 AURORA Specifications

Note: There are also three CP-140A Arcturus aircraft, acquired in the early 1990s, in service with the Canadian Forces. These aircraft are the same as the Aurora, except lacking its extensive ASW suite.

source: Department of National Defence/Canadian Forces

Length 35.61 m
Wingspan 30.37 m
Height 10.3 m
Weight 64,410 kg (max gross wt.)
Power 4 Allison T-56-A-14-LFE turboprops
Speed 648 kph
Ceiling 10,668 m
Range 9,266 km
Weapons Mk. 46 Mod V anti-submarine torpedoes; can also be retrofitted to carry anti-shipping missiles
Year(s) Procured 1980
Quantity in the Canadian Forces 18
Location(s): 19 Wing Comox and 14 Wing Greenwood

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