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Canada orders more Airbus A330 tankers, hires firm to convert planes

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Canada orders more Airbus A330 tankers, hires firm to convert planes

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VICTORIA, British Columbia — The Canadian government has increased the number of strategic tanker transport aircraft it is ordering from Airbus as it shores up its contribution to the defense of North America.

Last year, Canadian officials said they were committing to the purchase of four new A330 Multi Role Tanker Transports for its fleet, and negotiations were underway with Airbus. Meanwhile, the country acquired two used A330s from International Airfinance Corp., a global aircraft leasing company.

But on July 25, Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand announced the government is buying three more used A330s from International Airfinance, and that it selected Airbus Defence and Space to convert the now-five used aircraft into strategic tankers.

Canada’s contract with Airbus, which covers delivery of the four new A330s and conversion of the five used aircraft, is worth about CA$3.6 billion (U.S. $2.7 billion). The used aircraft are currently configured for long-haul commercial use.

Anand noted that the initiative will allow the Royal Canadian Air Force to enhance its sovereignty operations, including in the Arctic. It will also strengthen Canada’s air-to-air refueling support for North American Aerospace Defense Command operations and NATO, she added.

“The additional air-to-air refueling initiative is an integral part of Canada’s investments in NORAD modernization,” Defence Department spokesman Dan LeBouthillier said.

Last year, the Canadian military found the Airbus A330 was the only aircraft that met its requirements. As a result, the nation issued a formal request for proposal for the planes to Airbus on May 13, 2022, and negotiations began.

The aircraft will be able to refuel current Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 fighter jets as well as the F-35 aircraft on order, Le Bouthillier said. The tankers will also be able to refuel various U.S. military aircraft.

The new planes are expected by 2027.

Canada is also buying a new simulator as part of the same program, but the government did not release further details.

“The A330 MRTT perfectly matches Canada’s needs to protect its sovereignty as well as to enhance operations both in the North American Aerospace Defence Command as well as in NATO,” Mike Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said in a July 25 statement.

The new fleet will replace the existing CC-150 Polaris aircraft, which have been in operation since 1992.

David Pugliese is the Canada correspondent for Defense News.

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