By 2033, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) will be equipped with military drones or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS).
The Canadian Government announced in Comox Tuesday that it will spend $2.49 billion to buy 11 MQ-9 Reapers and set up facilities at bases in Comox and Greenwood, N.S.
A Ground Control Centre will also be built in Ottawa, where the aircraft pilots will be based and where the drones will be controlled from.
“The new RPAS will be about the size of a fighter jet with a wider wing span and certified to the same standard as a piloted aircraft,” said Marie-France Lalonde, parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Defence Bill Blair.
The wing span is as wide as the width of a hockey rink.
The new aircraft can be armed for military conflicts, and domestically, they will be used for surveillance.
“The remotely piloted aircraft system will be used in Canada as well as overseas on operations,” said 19 Wing Commander Colonel J.P. Gagnon.
“In Canada, we can expect monitoring of our maritime approaches and patrolling the Arctic. This aircraft can be airborne for 40 hours, so it has a reach that is incredible. It can also do surveillance of forest fires for hot spots.”
Seven hundred jobs will be created during construction, including the build of new hangers in Comox and Greenwood to house the new aircraft.
Twenty-five new permanent jobs are expected in Comox when the full complement of drones is flying by 2033.
Colonel Gagnon says the next five to seven years will see a major transformation at 19 Wing Comox, which has seen little change in decades.
“So at the Wing, we get a complete renewal of all our assets in the next 5-7 years, which is extremely exciting for the RCAF and for 19 Wing,” Gagnon said.
The much delayed CC-295 Kingfisher replacements for search and rescue Buffalo aircraft continue to roll out.
Boeing P-8 Poseidens are now replacing the CP 140 Aurora fleet, and the Cormorant SAR helicopters will be getting a mid-life upgrade.
The fleet of MQ-9 Reapers will be built by U.S. defence contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, and delivery will begin in 2028.