The Government of Canada announced it is replacing two Challenger model 601 utility aircraft with two Challenger model 650s for the Canadian Armed Forces to allow for continuation of mission critical roles. The retiring aircraft that entered service in the 1980s, fall short of operational requirements and are nearly obsolete due to new rules in the United States & Europe that will restrict their ability to fly internationally before the end of this year. The replacement ensures CAF can continue to operate a modern and flexible utility flight service fleet that serves a variety of roles – including reconnaissance and liaison missions.
Without this needed replacement, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s operational effectiveness for missions would be limited. The Challenger model 601 are used for the medical evacuation of military personnel serving overseas and the safe transport of CAF medical personnel and specialized equipment in the critical first few hours and days of someone being wounded. They are also used for the safe extraction and repatriation of personnel and citizens. The fleet further provides the ability to transport specialized teams from Canada to operational theatres around the world. This fleet provides critical abilities here at home.
The CAF’s existing Challenger fleet consists of four aircraft, two purchased in the early 1980s and two purchased in the early 2000s. With the implementation of new international regulatory and interoperability requirements in 2020, only half of the fleet is fully compliant with international standards.The value of the contract for the two aircraft, initial training and spare parts is approximately $105 million.The Department of National Defence has been looking at options on how best to upgrade this fleet to preserve critical capabilities since 2018. Consolidation of the Challenger fleet is part of Canada’s Defence Policy Strong, Secured, Engaged and has been part of the Defence Capabilities Blueprint since 2018.
The Bombardier Challenger 600 series is a family of business jets developed by Canadair and then produced from 1986 by its new owner, Bombardier Aerospace. At the end of 1975, Canadair backed the LearStar 600 concept by Bill Lear, and acquired the large business jet or freighter project in April 1976. On 29 October, the programme was launched, backed by the Canadian federal government, and designed to comply with new FAR part 25 standards. The Challenger is a low-wing jet powered by two turbofans mounted in aft fuselage pods, it has a supercritical wing and a stand-up cabin with two seating sections.