The RCAF has plans to replace its CC-150 Polaris refuelling tankers but is holding off until the Liberal government makes its decision on what type of aircraft will be selected to replace the CF-18s.
“That will determine the requirements of the next tanker aircraft,” RCAF commander Lt.-Gen. Michael Hood recently explained to MPs. “So whether it is a probe-and-drogue, as we use right now, or a boom that flies into a refuelling receptacle, we will replace the tanker aircraft with whatever our front-line fighter is at the time.”
“We know that the lifespan of the Airbus is 2026 right now, so that decision has to be taken regardless,” he added.
Hood also pointed out that of Canada’s two Polaris aircraft, one is assigned to the Iraq mission and the other is in heavy maintenance and not available. (There is a C-130 refueling aircraft available out of Winnipeg for NORAD duties, he added.)
Privately military officers suggest the Liberal government’s decision on a CF-18 replacement is a long way off.
Hood suggested there are ways to deal with potential delays in any Polaris replacement program.
“In fact, recently we leased a tanker to bring some aircraft back overseas,” he revealed. “There are options that will allow us to mitigate whatever program challenges we have.”