Minister Blair Unveils $850 Million Investment in Canadian Forces Base Trenton and Introduces New Aircraft to Royal Canadian Air Force Fleet

CE-145C Vigilance. Image source:

CE-145C Vigilance. Image source:

On March 8, 2024, the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, made a significant announcement during his visit to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton, a pivotal hub for Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) air mobility operations in Canada. Minister Blair disclosed plans for an $850 million investment aimed at modernizing CFB Trenton to accommodate Canada’s upcoming fleet of CC-330 Husky Strategic Tanker Transport Aircraft.

“As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force, I am more confident than ever in its future. With new fleets of fighter jets, maritime patrol aircraft, tanker and transport aircraft, and more arriving throughout the next few years, we are building the Royal Canadian Air Force of tomorrow. These significant investments in our military will enable the RCAF to better defend Canada and strengthen Canada’s ability to contribute to our NORAD and NATO Alliances,” stated the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence.

The substantial investment will facilitate extensive airfield and infrastructure enhancements at Trenton, encompassing the construction and design of a cutting-edge two-bay hangar, upgrades to the apron and runway, taxiway improvements, and other essential infrastructure developments. These enhancements are pivotal in positioning CFB Trenton as the Eastern Main Operating Base for the incoming CC-330 Husky fleet.

“Today, we welcome the arrival of a Manned Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft. This important delivery reinforces our government’s commitment to protecting Canada’s sovereignty and security. The acceptance of this aircraft is an exciting milestone for the Canadian Armed Forces and marks an impressive 100 years of service for the Royal Canadian Air Force. We congratulate the Royal Canadian Air Force on their centennial, and we will continue our work to support members of the Canadian Armed Forces with the equipment they need to carry out domestic and international operations, while maximizing economic benefits to Canadian industry,” said the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Public Services and Procurement.

Minister Blair emphasized that Canada’s Strategic Tanker Transport Capability (STTC) Project is swiftly advancing, with the procurement of nine CC-330 Husky aircraft well underway. This procurement nearly doubles the size of the previous fleet, with two Husky aircraft already delivered to Canada, the first in 2023, and the second, Husky 003, joining the CC-330 fleet on February 16, 2024.

While initially configured for transport, these aircraft will undergo conversion to serve as multi-role tanker transport aircraft, affording the RCAF increased operational flexibility for various air mobility missions, including air-to-air refueling, passenger transport, aeromedical evacuation, and strategic transport.

“Our government is providing the Canadian Armed Forces with the equipment it needs, while creating long-term economic benefits for Canadians through the agreements made with the industry. These procurements will advance Canadian innovation in our world-class aerospace and defence industries, create high-value jobs, and contribute to economic growth in Canada,” expressed the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

Additionally, Minister Blair welcomed a new addition to the Canadian Armed Forces fleet, touring the first of three new CE-145C Vigilance aircraft that arrived in Trenton on February 23, 2024. The CE-145C Vigilance, a modified Beechcraft King Air 350ER turbo prop aircraft manufactured by L3 Harris in Texas under the MAISR project, introduces a new manned airborne intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (MAISR) capability for the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM). Outfitted with state-of-the-art sensors and secure communications equipment, these aircraft bolster the CAF’s situational awareness and decision-making capabilities during ground operations, primarily supporting CAF missions.

“The delivery of the Vigilance aircraft provides the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command with enhanced surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that radically improves the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to understand the environments in which we operate and will be a critical enabler to mission success. We look forward to continuing to work closely our colleagues in the Royal Canadian Air Force as Vigilance is integrated into full service over the next year,” explained Brigadier-General Richard Schmidt, Deputy Commander, Canadian Special Operations Forces Command

Minister Blair highlighted the ongoing transformation of the RCAF, coinciding with its 100th anniversary celebration. Since 2022, the Government of Canada has finalized the procurement or upgrade of approximately 140 new or refurbished aircraft for the RCAF, including 88 new F-35 fighter jets, 9 CC-330 Husky Strategic Tanker Transport aircraft, up to 16 new P-8A Poseidon multi-mission aircraft, 16 new or upgraded Cormorant helicopters, and 11 SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems. This extensive recapitalization fortifies Canada’s commitments to NATO and NORAD and enhances the RCAF’s capacity to safeguard Canada.

Moreover, these initiatives yield significant economic benefits for Canada. The STTC project alone has the potential to create or sustain 1,050 jobs annually and contribute $145 million annually to GDP over the contract’s lifespan. Similarly, the acquisition and maintenance contracts associated with the MAISR project offer the potential to create or sustain approximately 65 jobs annually and contribute $7.5 million annually to Canada’s GDP over the contract’s duration.

Minister Blair’s visit was attended by General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff; Lieutenant-General Eric Kenny, Commander of the RCAF; and Brigadier-General Richard Schmidt, Deputy Commander of CANSOFCOM.

“The threat to Canada’s sovereignty and interests abroad, created by competition for global power and advancing technologies, remains as significant now as any time in our history. The Royal Canadian Air Force must be ready answer when our nation calls with a mission-ready, well-equipped, and combat-capable force.  These investments will help build a world-class RCAF that will continue to meet Canada’s air and space defence requirements for years to come as an agile, integrated and inclusive air and space force,” informed Lieutenant-General Eric Kenny, Commander, Royal Canadian Air Force.

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