Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Two of five

A recent article posted to Canada's Air Force website made note of the fact that one of our CC-150 Polaris aircraft has recently arrived home after undergoing a conversion to an Air-To-Air-Refueller, and a second Polaris will be so modified by June of this year. Given the fact that we only operate five of the beasts in total, this is a significant development for the fleet.

Strategic Air-to-Air Refuelling (SAAR) is a core capability for the Canadian Forces and the Air Force. It provides efficient, safe and timely intercontinental deployment for our CF-18 fighter aircraft and crews whenever they are called upon to support international operations.

This represents a leap forward from our current refuelling model: five specially-configured C-130's have to fly at max throttle while the CF-18's they're topping up do their best impersonation of a hummingbird. While I'm pleased that the CF has obtained a more modern AAR capability than that, I find myself wondering about the overall utility of such a change.

The only aircraft these retooled CC-150's will be able to refuel are our CF-18's. I asked the CF Media Liason Office specifically about the possibility of extending this capability to our new C-17's and CH-47's, and it was confirmed to me that there are no plans currently in the works "to pursue an air-to-air refueling capability in existing or upcoming aircraft fleets (besides the CF-18)." Of course they added the caveat that "the CF will examine options in this area and may elect to pursue such a capability in the future if warranted." Well, that and a buck-and-a-quarter will get you a coffee at Tim Hortons.

Does such a limited role really constitute a "core capability for the Canadian Forces?" Is AAR really only required for our fighters?

Update: Of course, being able to get a CF-18 where you need it to go to do some damage isn't an insignificant thing.


Blogger Chris Taylor said...

They would have to rip out a bunch of stuff at the back to fit a flying boom system.

Since Northrop Grumman is submitting a KC-30 design (based on the Airbus A330) for the USAF's KC-X competition, it wouldn't be a stretch to see ours get retrofitted to some kind of KC-30 variant.

All of the new USAF tanker variants are spec'ed to accomodate a centerline boom and wingtip drogue pods, so that they can refuel both USAF and USN birds. Something like that would be a good fit for us, too.

11:58 a.m., May 01, 2007  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that sort of multi-functional refuelling capability is on the horizon for us - at least not for now.

12:12 p.m., May 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The CC-150's are strategic refuellers. They're replacing the CC-137's retired in 1997.

The CC-130's will remain as tactical refuellers.

1:03 p.m., May 05, 2007  

Post a Comment

<< Home