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Canada renewing Challenger 650 utility aircraft fleet due to new regulations

Bombardier Challenger 650 aircraft
Photo: Canadian defense ministry

The Canadian government has placed an order for two Challenger model 650 utility aircraft for the Canadian Armed Forces, as a replacement for the two Challenger model 601 planes currently in service.

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 and Europe that will restrict their ability to fly internationally before the end of this year.

The government said the replacement would ensure the CAF can continue to operate a modern utility flight service fleet that serves a variety of roles, including reconnaissance and liaison missions with international partners, and the speedy deployment of specialized capabilities and expertise, including the disaster assistance response team.

The Challenger aircraft 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 theaters around the world. Earlier this month, a Challenger quickly brought Royal Canadian Navy search experts to Naples, Italy, to support the search for the Cyclone helicopter lost in the Ionian Sea.

Challengers are also critical in facilitating the travel of senior government officials, as well as parliamentarians from all parties due to security and safety considerations.

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.

That is why the defense department entered into a contract with Bombardier this week.