Canada’s Auroras Getting Land Surveillance Capabilities
Canada’s C$ 1.67 billion Aurora Incremental Modernization Project began in 1998, and is an amalgamation of 23 individual projects grouped into 4 chronologically consecutive block upgrades. Key upgrades successfully performed under the AIMP to date have included new electro-optical and infrared sensors (L-3 Communications) under Block III, and upgrades to the navigation and flight instruments (CMC Electronics) under Block II. AIMP, plus the Aurora fleet’s new long-term, performance-based maintenance program, are designed to keep Canada’s fleet flying until 2015 or so.
Canada is also pursuing land-surveillance upgrades to its fleet. Given Canada’s commitments on the ground in Afghanistan, and employment of American P-3 Orion and British Nimrod MRA2 aircraft for ground surveillance in that theater, these contracts may yet contribute to NATO’s Afghan mission.
The latest update involves deployment of the aircraft to Afghanistan on a special overland mission.
Canada’s Aurora Modernization Efforts
As noted earlier, Canada’s CDN $1.67 billion Aurora Incremental Modernization Project began in 1998, and is an amalgamation of 23 individual projects grouped into 4 chronologically consecutive block upgrades. The addition of improved surveillance radars is a late-stage upgrade, and was itself divided into phases:
Phase 1 of the MDA project featured high level design and the selection of a radar hardware supplier.
Phase 2 saw the completion of detailed design and the initial development and laboratory tests of 4 prototype systems.
Phase 3, valued at approximately CAD $78 million (currently about $66 million), completed the ground and flight testing of the 4 prototype systems, upgrade the prototypes to production standards, then manufacture, test and deliver 16 production systems. The prototype aircraft modifications were scheduled to begin in April 2007.
The radar MDA (now ATK) has developed for the CP-140 has been given the nomenclature AN/APS-508. The hardware and enhanced maritime surveillance modes are provided by Telephonics Corporation. The imaging resolution of the radar is less than 1m, and the GMTI uses 3-channels of Space Time Adaptive Processing (STAP) for improved target detection, localization, and jamming suppression. The radar is fully integrated with a new Identification Friend or Foe Interrogator (IFFI), the AN/UPX-505.
Contracts & Key Events
May 8/09: The Canadian government announces that 2 CP-140s will deploy to Afghanistan for about 2 months, in order to high-resolution, colour and stereo maps for Canada’s Operation ATHENA, and for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
The maps will cover new ground where no detailed maps exist, or improve out-dated maps where developments have changed the landscape. Imagery collected will be based on priority areas identified by the Canadian Forces and allies in conjunction with Joint Task Force – Afghanistan.
Sept 6/08: Canada’s Minister of National Defence Peter Mackay announces further intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance additions to the Aurora fleet, via a C$ 20 million contract for integration services and unspecified “commercially available off-the-shelf components, to which minor modifications for CF use will be made.”
L-3 will perform its systems engineering and integration through an amendment to Canada’s existing 10-year Optimized Weapons System Support (OWSS) contract. This portion is valued at approximately C$10 million, or about half of the contract. The remaining portion of the project will be acquired through Foreign Military Sales with the U.S. Navy. Though the exact equipment is not discussed, L-3 Wescam in Burlington, ON makes the MX-15 surveillance turret, which it later confirms as equipment for the CP-140.
Jan 8/08: US firm Alliant Tech Systems (ATK) acquires MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.’s Information Systems business, which includes the Aurora APS-508 radar project. ATK release | MDA release.
Sept 20/07: The Canadian government reconsiders the entire Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP), after spending about half of the C$ 1.6 billion earmarked for its 18-plane fleet. Toronto star report.
Jan 26/07: MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. announces a go-ahead to begin Phase 3 of a 3-phase, CDN $200 million (then about $127.2 million) development and production contract with Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND). Work on Phase 1 began in 2003.
As prime contractor, they will deliver a new airborne radar surveillance solution for Canada’s fleet of CP-140 Aurora (a localized P-3 Orion) maritime patrol aircraft that will give Canada’s fleet the ability able to detect, track, and image objects moving on land as well as at sea.
- Canadian Forces – CP-140 Aurora
- Canadian Naval Review (2007) – The Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP): The Future of the CP-140s
- L-3 Communications – CP-140 Aurora Avionics and Mission Systems Support
- CMC Electronics (Feb 21/06) – CMC Electronics Achieves Prototype Acceptance By Canadian Department of National Defence for CP-140 Aurora Navigation and Flight Instruments Modernization Project