In 1980, Maritime Air Group's four maritime patrol squadrons (404, 405, 407 and 415) were starting to be re-equipped with the CP-140 Aurora, a unique Canadian derivative of the Lockheed P-3C Orion. These new aircraft were replacing the end-of-life Argus CP-107 fleet.
The Aurora inherited its long range and endurance from the P-3C and its modern anti-submarine sensor suite from Lockheed's S3A Viking. Like its Argus predecessor, the Aurora was the envy of Canada's allies and proved its outstanding capabilities during its first year of service by winning the coveted Fincastle Trophy, emblematic of supreme anti-submarine warfare among Commonwealth air forces. The Aurora has since distinguished itself in Arctic surveillance and UN peacekeeping operations in the Adriatic Sea.
The CP-140 Aurora is a four-engine long-range patrol aircraft used for maritime surveillance on Canada's east and west coasts and throughout the Arctic. Canada's Air Force began to receive the Aurora in 1980 from Lockheed Martin and now operates a fleet of 18 aircraft (2010) . Thirteen are stationed at 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia and five at 19 Wing Comox, BC.
Although the Aurora is capable of carrying out a variety of operations, its systems were based on 1960's technology. Its mission suite, for example, did not meet the needs of modern non-combat, peace support or combat operations. To address the problem , the $1B Aurora Incremental Modernization Project AIMP) consisting of 21 sub-projects, is being implemented to restore the Aurora's operational capability. Started in 1997, the program has now entered its third and final phase.
Since the initial purchase of the Aurora, the Canadian Forces acquired three additional CP-140 airframes. These three Aircraft have been designated as the CP-140A "Arcturus". They do not include the ASW and tactical equipment that the Aurora does. The CP-140A can carry and deploy two SKADs (Survival Kit Air Dropable) and can carry weapons in the internal weapons bay. In the latter case, however, this is only for transport purposes. There are no underwing attachment points and the sonobuoy tubes are not wired for use. The aircraft does have the tail boom extension but the associated Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) equipment is not fitted. Similarly, the aircraft do not have the belly-mounted vertical camera system. The principle visible external difference is the lack of the wingtip-mounted ESM equipment fitted to the CP-140 aircraft. The CP-140As have four observer stations with bubble windows and the auxiliary escape hatch behind the pilot's seat has an optical window for handheld photography.
They are primarily used for pilot training but are capable of general maritime reconnaissance on surface vessels (counter-drug operations, detecting smuggling of illegal immigrants, fisheries protection patrols, pollution monitoring, etc.), search-and-rescue assistance, and Arctic sovereignty patrols. Three CP-140A aircraft – which were, in fact, the final three P-3 Orion airframes manufactured on Lockheed's California-plant assembly line – were ordered in 1991. One was phased out but two remain in service in mid 2010. The Arcturus does possess a superior AN/APS-507 surface search radar which incorporates modern functions such as track-while-scan that the Aurora's AN/APS-506 radar lacks. The CP140A does however, maintain the same military communications suite as the CP-140 Aurora.
|This CP-140 had its forward fuselage painted to resemble an eagle's head. In Greek mythology, Aurora is the Greek goddess who restored Orion's eyesight, and also the Aurora Borealis are the northern lights that are prominent over northern Canada and the Arctic Ocean. (CF photo GDC96-528-23)|
Length: 35.61 m (116.83 ft)
Wingspan: 30.37 m (99.6 ft)
Height: 10.30 m (34 ft)
Empty Weight: 27,892 kg (61,490 lbs)
Maximum Gross Weight: 64,410 kg (141,997 lbs)
Power: 4 x Alison T-56-A-14-LFE turboprop engines
Maximum Speed: 750 km/h (466 mph)
Cruising Speed: 648 km/h (403 mph)
Service Ceiling: 10,668 m (35,000 ft)
Endurance: 14 hours
Range: 9,266 km (5,000 nm)
Sensors: Radar; sonobuoys; forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera; magnetic anomaly detector (MAD); electronic support measures (ESM); fixed 70 mm camera; hand-held camera; night vision goggles; gyrostabilized binoculars.
Weapons System: Mark 46 Mod. V anti-submarine torpedoes; signal chargers; smoke markers; illumination flares
(Can also be retrofitted to carry anti-ship air-to-surface missiles).
Bomb bay uses BRU-12A Weapon shackles; Bomb bay and wing stations fitted with BRU-15A shackles.
Other Equipment: Two “Sea Survival Kit—Air-Droppable” (SKAD), and Arctic SKAD units.
Crew Size: Mission minimum 8 personnel. Two pilots, one flight engineer, four navigators and 3 airborne electronic sensor operators (AESOPs). Crew size will vary according to the mission. Initially the crew which handled non-acoustic sensors were known as NASO's (Non-Acoustic Sensor Operators)
Quantity in CF: 18
Original cost: $24,905,000 each.
Stationed at 19 Wing Comox, BC and 14 Wing Greenwood, NS
|1982: The CP-140 in its original paint scheme. Note the feathered outboard engine. (Photo ISC 82-2031)|
|April 25, 2000: In the 1980's, the FIP (Government of Canada's corporate identity program) arrived with the Aurora's adopting the overall darker Grey 26173 and the even darker Grey 26118 markings. (Photo ISC00-728-18 by MCpl Danielle Bernier, DGPA/J5PA Combat Camera)|
Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP)
The Aurora Incremental Modernization Project, initiated in 1997 to upgrade electronics of the Aurora fleet was halted by the government on 20 September 2007 to evaluate whether the aging fleet should continue to be upgraded or replaced by more modern aircraft. Initially estimated at $1.6B, project had been cut back but on 18 December 2007, the Department of National Defence rescinded this work suspension and will continue with the modernization. This includes upgrading computer, navigation, communication and radar systems as well as making structural improvements to ten of eighteen aircraft. The intent of the modernization project is to "keep the aircraft safe and operationally viable until 2020.” Once each aircraft is completely modernized, it will be assigned the CP-140M designation. Although the other eight Auroras and two CP-140A Arcturus are to be retired, the ten AIMP upgraded aircraft are to bridge the gap until Aurora replacements arrive around 2015 or later.
AIMP is currently divided into three "blocks":
Block I is essentially complete (with only 1 a/c left to go in July 2010) and it concentrated on the replacement of unsupportable systems. Block I configuration was a temporary state for all the aircraft as they proceeded through Block II and perhaps Block III upgrades.
Block II brought a glass cockpit with the Navigation and Flight Instruments (NFI) component and a complete replacement of the communications suite. Block II is nearing completion and should be complete in early 2011.
Block III is a wholesale replacement of the aircraft's sensors and mission computer.
Reference will be made to these blocks when describing upgrades in the Electronics Suite document.
Captain Stephanie Hale expands on Block III. "One CP-140M Aurora has completed AIMP Block III configuration. Currently located in Greenwood, it is undergoing testing and evaluation. Block III completion was initially the scheduled for August 2011, but this plan has slid a bit and work is approximately one year behind initial plans.
Initial plans foresaw a fleet of ten CP-140M and eight CP-140 Block II. This plan is now changing daily and we expect to see more of the Block II planes upgraded to Block III (CP-140M). Currently the fleet's life has been extended to approximately 2018-2020 (making them almost 40 years old); however, plans are being considered to extend them beyond that (perhaps as far as 2030 or beyond). In order to permit our life extension and to address structural cracking and corrosion issues, Block III upgrades incorporates SLEP (structural life extension project) which involves rewinging the planes and replacing key structural components in the horizontal stabilizers".
Colonel Iain Huddleston is Commander of 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia. He provides this update to the CP-140 modernization program dated July 15, 2015.
"AIMP was proposed in 1998 to upgrade the CP-140 through a series of four incremental blocks, each involving the upgrade or replacement of specific systems and sensors. Block 1 involved the replacement of a variety of legacy equipment and sub-systems. Block 2 introduced a modern communications management system, upgraded navigation equipment and a modern cockpit. In parallel with Block 2 but considered separately, an electro-optical infrared camera turret was installed underneath the nose of the aircraft. Block 3, the current block, replaces the mission computer, the acoustics system, electronic warfare system, magnetic anomaly detector and synthetic aperture radar, providing operators with a modern display screen, touchpad and trackball controls. This is the point at which the old CP-140 earns the ‘M’ for Modernized. Block 4, which is in the design phase at the moment, will add a high-speed beyond-line-of-sight communication system, a modern tactical data link and an aircraft self-defense suite. To date, the LRP Force has received half of the Block 3 modified airframes, with the remainder scheduled to be modified over the next four to five years. The CP-140M Aurora is rapidly being established as the pillar upon which Canada’s overall intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system will be built."
More detailed information on the AIMP is available in the Electronics Suite document which is selectab;le in the table below. .
Aurora Structural Life Extension Program (ASLEP)
The Aurora Structural Life Extension Project (ASLEP) is proceeding with 10 of the 18 Auroras scheduled to receive new wings and the replacement of key structural components. On 18 November 2008, the Government of Canada awarded a US$ 156 million contract to Lockheed Martin for 10 structural life extension wing kits. The complete ASLEP solution replaces the aircraft's' outer wings, center wing lower section and horizontal stabilizers with new production components. All fatigue-life limiting structures on the aircraft are replaced with enhanced-design components and improved corrosion-resistant materials that will greatly reduce maintenance costs over the aircraft's service life. This program is expected to extend the CP140s' service life by 15,000 flight hours per airframe. Aging aircraft can develop unpredictable faults, but if this effort is successful, it could extend the planes’ in-service time by 15 years or more.
Arcturus (a/c 119) has been removed from service and is only used as a technician trainer at this time. The other two CP-140A aircraft, #120 and #121, are due to be retired by end of 2010. Although they are the newest of the fleet in terms of years, these aircraft will retire with approximately 40,000 landings. They have seen a great deal of use both as pilot trainers and operationally.
Canada's Department of National Defence has announced that it plans to replace the upgraded and 're-lifed' CP-140 Aurora fleet between 2015 and 2020 and the leading candidate for CP-140 replacement is the Boeing P-8 Poseidon. Defence Construction Canada staffers are already comparing measurements of CFB Greenwood's hangars and Boeing P-8A Poseidon airframe to see what modifications will be required to accommodate this front-runner for the CP-140M replacement.
|Aurora on the Way|
|Aurora Beginnings by Ernie Cable|
|Training and Operations|
|CP-140 Youtube Video Clip|
In 2010, the Aurora serves with four squadrons - three at CFB Greenwood N.S. and one at CFB Comox BC. This will obviously change when 10 aircraft complete Block III AIMP, ALSEP and with 8 aircraft slated for retirement.
On February 23, 2021 Berniie Thorne wrote an article on CP140 upgrades and the future of the fleet. Select this link to read the article. From the Canadian Military Journal Vol 21 No.2
Credits and References:
1) Ernie Cable <erncar(at)ns.sympatico.ca> Associate Air Force Historian and Shearwater Aviation Museum Historian
2) Captain Stephanie Hale. Navigator-Communicator Standards Officer, 14 Wing Greenwood, NS. <s.hale(at)ns.sympatico.ca>
4) The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets (15th Edition) by Eric Wertheim ( 2007) via Google Books
5) ASLEP http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/Canada-Orders-P-3-ASLEP-Kits-05187/
7) Aurora Renaissance by Martin Shadwick http://www.journal.dnd.ca/vo8/no4/commenta-eng.asp
8) Technical Specs http://www.airforce.forces.gc.ca/v2/equip/cp140/specs-eng.asp
10) Brodaides Discussion Forum. Jul 15/15 http://www.navalreview.ca/category/broadsides/