Canada qualifies Airbus A330 for tanker replacement program, Boeing KC-46 rejected

Airbus A330 tanker Canada
Airbus A330Multi Role Tanker Transport MRTT. Airbus has qualified as bidder for
Canada’s strategic tanker replacement.

Airbus has been qualified by the Government of Canada as a bidder for the Strategic Tanker Transport Capability (STTC) project, a procurement process launched to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Airbus A310MRTT (CC-150 Polaris) multirole tanker fleet.

The invitation to qualify (ITQ), released at the beginning of 2021, has identified Airbus’ A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft as capable of meeting the project’s requirements which now moves to the next stage of the call for tender. A draft request for proposal (RFP) is expected in Q3 2021.

The STTC program looks to replace the RCAF CC-150 Polaris tanker fleet with a multirole aircraft capable of conducting a wide range of missions including NATO and NORAD operations, ranging from air-to-air refueling to strategic Government of Canada transport and aeromedical evacuation.

Simon Jacques, President of Airbus Defence and Space Canada, said: “The A330 MRTT is the only new generation, combat-proven, multirole tanker available. It is certified to operate with the majority of western receivers, including Canada’s current fighters, transport and mission aircraft. With more than 250,000 flight hours in service with 13 nations, including key NATO allies and Five Eyes partners such as Australia and the United Kingdom.”

The Airbus A330 prevailed over its main contender, the Boeing KC-46, which was officially rejected by Ottawa.

“Boeing was informed by the government of Canada that the KC-46 did not qualify for the country’s Strategic Tanker Transport Capability project,” the company says. “While disappointed in the decision, we will remain ready to bring the full depth and breadth of Boeing to our offer in the event Canada decides to reopen the bidding process.”

The US giant did not disclose the reasons that led Canada to stop the run of the KC-46 in the program. The aircraft was probably disadvantaged by the various technical problems that have afflicted it for some time and are slowing its entry into service. At the same time, RCAF already successfully operates Airbus-supplied aircraft, the Polaris (based on the A310) and C-295.

Airbus is currently the only qualified bidder for the STTC project. The Canadian government hopes to have a contract signed by the spring of 2024 with the first aircraft expected to be operational in 2028.

Sources: Airbus, Boeing
Image: Netherlands Ministry of Defence

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