Argus II?

Adapting the Bombardier CSeries to replace CP-140 Auroras for Wide-Area Maritime Patrol

Originally published on the Canadian American Strategic Review 2012

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. 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 CP-140 replacement. As citizens, we must ask ourselves:  Is the purchase of yet another foreign aircraft a wise course for Canada?  Most importantly, how will this affect Canada’s aerospace industry?

Is there a domestic alternative to the foreign-sourced P-8A Poseidon? At the moment, no. None are available. But then, the P-8A Poseidon  isn’t available other than as a prototype either.  That airframe is based on Boeing’s 737 airliner. As it happens, a domestic design has been developed to compete directly with the 737 in the commercial field. [1] That aircraft is Bombardier’s CSeries.

Bombardier Aerospace has announced that it “is on track” to deliver its first CSeries airliner in 2013.  This CSeries  is to be a smaller, high-efficiency airliner offered in two sizes, a shorter CS110 and longer CS130 (the numbers indicating passenger seat totals). Today’s tougher commerical market dictates greater attention to both operating economies and reduced maintenance burdens. Such emphasis shows that there is no reason why the CSeries airframe could not also be modified into a  Canadian-built competitor to the P-8A Poseidon as a  maritime patrol aircraft.

All shorter-range airliners are designed for the higher ‘cycles’ of landing and taking off on multi- legged regional routes giving the aircraft built-in durability advantages over longer-range types. To achieve its goals of  lower weight and minimized maintenance, Bombardier has designed the CSeries  to incorporate a large percentage of composite materials into its airframe construction. Since composites make an airframe inherently more resistant to corrosion while flying over salt water, the CSeries will be less vulnerable than older, largely aluminum-constructed competition.

Bombardier will also be a  first-adopter with more efficient geared turbofans –  the new-technology Pratt & Whitney PW1524G turbine  (or GTF as this engine was previously known). These new PW1000 series geared turbofans are vastly superior to all older-style turbofan engines  (such as the P-8A’s CFM56s).  By comparison,  PW1000 geared turbofans have reduced carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions  as well as  a lower specific fuel consumption.


Argus II :  Support Canadian Aerospace and satisfy Canadian Maritime Patrol Requirements



Artwork by Stephen Priestley


There was a time  when Canadian aerospace firms had  little trouble in adapting  the airframe of airliners into maritime patrol aircraft.  Once such aerospace firm  was Montreal-based  Canadair. Canadair’s  CP-107 Argus was based on an existing airliner, the Bristol Britannia,  but  the Argus  was modified almost beyond recognition for its new role. The Argus would give Canada years of  sterling service in the anti-submarine role and on sovereignty patrols. When it entered RCAF service the Argus was one of  the most  advanced  ASW aircraft in the world. But the legacy of  Canada’s Argus didn’t live on.

The Canadian-built CP-107 Argus served for 24 years before being replaced by the US Lockheed CP-140 Aurora.  Canadair was involved once more but, this time, in a much diminished role.  For the Aurora, only wings and a few small parts were built by Montreal  for shipment to the US for assembly by Lockheed.  Soon after, Canadair would  be sold  to become Bombardier Aerospace.

So Bombardier has the Argus heritage to look back on and a new-technology airframe in the final stage of design. That CSeries may be beyond the dreams of designers at  Canadair in the 1950s  but adapting the airframe to the maritime patrol role is a relatively straightforward if complex task. The CSeries, like all modern airliners, consists of  double-lobed fuselage with passengers above and cargo below. The lower lobe provides the ideal space for weapons bay (aft), sonobuoy launch tubes and search sensors – radar and EO/IR turret, etc. (forward ). A composite structure simplifies placement of all other sensors.

In arrangement,  our conceptual  ‘CP-207’ Argus II  follows the pattern established by both P-8A and planned Airbus maritime patrol derivatives. The purpose is not to introduce a revolutionary new concept. Quite the reverse. The airframe is merely a ‘platform’ for the sensors and weapons. That being the case, why should that platform not be based on an upcoming Canadian airframe?

Broadening the Breed: Other CSeries Military Roles:

VIP and Multi-Role Tanker Transport

Of course, Bombardier designed the CSeries as an airliner. The simplest military role adaptation of  all  would  be as a VIP transport. If this Canadian-built airframe can fulfill  the ‘Canada One’ role, it should do so.  If  a nation takes pride in its aerospace accomplishments, it must be shown. What better way to demonstrate that pride, than in the premier place of honour in Canada’s Air Force?

A CSeries VIP variant might share some common features with the Argus II maritime patrol type. Superficially, the VIP aircraft would look more like a standard airline CSeries but  the VIP variant could incorporate military fittings such as extended-range fuel tanks, observation windows, and even defensive aids. If war, as Clausewitz said, is the continuation of diplomacy by other means then it is no surprise that aircraft meant for diplomatic or warrior roles have so much in common.

And what of the baseline CSeries for military cargo or combi (combined passengers and cargo) roles? This aircraft would not be suitable for the strategic role – the CF’s larger Airbus CC-150 Polaris fills that role. CSeries payload and range are both too limited to take over all aspects of  Polaris taskings. There are, however, numerous valuable contributions that a cargo/combi CSeries could make in CF service – including taking a load off of  the Polaris fleet.


A CSeries Jack of  Many Military Roles:

the Multi-Role  Theatre Support Tanker/Transport



Artwork by Stephen Priestley


There is also potential to take on another Polaris role  –  that of  Multi-Role Tanker Transports. The Polaris MRTTs are fitted with twin inflight refuelling pods which allow them to tank up the CF-18 fighters. This was intended to permit CF-18s to deploy overseas more easily  but  Polaris MRTTs also escort and refuel any CF-18s deploying from one North American base to another.

Domestic air-to-air refuelling and fighter support tasks could be more economically handled by a smaller aircraft  than Polaris MRTTs. The CSeries could form the basis for a Theatre Support Tanker/Transport, an in-theatre analogue of the larger MRTT. Compared with an MRTT, TSTT taskings would be of a more regional nature. A CF  TSTT  fleet could support operations all across North America, having sufficient range to operate from Canadian airfields to the Arctic, the Carribean, or  from Pacific to Atlantic.

Adapting a closely-related airframe for both maritime patrol and transport duties also has a Canadian prescendent. The same Bristol Britannia airliner design adapted by Canadair into that CC-107 Argus ASW aircraft  was also transformed into the CC-106 Yukon. That Yukon acted as the turboprop equivalent to today’s CC-150 Polaris jet-powered strategic transport, flying  both  RCAF  freight and  passenger roles.

In the past, Canada’s Air Force has also had intermediate-sized transport aircraft. One example is another Canadair adaptation –  the turboprop CC-109 Cosmopolitan. The ‘Cosmo’ was designed as a regional airliner but had  been re-engined  by Canadair  to have the same engines as tactical Hercules transports and Aurora patrol aircraft.  On domestic flights, the CC-109 Cosmopolitans filled a gap between smaller utility types and larger, jet-engined CC-137 Husky, a military Boeing 707 airliner. Today, the Air Force tries to use the large Polaris to fill  both roles.  The CSeries is sized between the old Cosmo and the Husky and CSeries will  have advantages over both – the speed and range that CC-109s lacked and the rugged durability missing in the transatlantic 707s.

Getting There –  Moving from Statements of  Support to Procurement of  Canadian Aerospace

It is easy to demand money for this project or that program but rather harder to deliver funds – especially in our current economic climate. Aircraft purchases are never inexpensive these days but where is the value in our  Federal Governments investing the better part of  $1B in Canadian aerospace only to turn around a spend tens of Billions on foreign-made aircraft?  Sure, there are Regional Industrial Benefits but such  ‘offsets’  do little to foster an environment  of  innovation.

In a sense, Canada has already paid for the development of  the TSTT. Being essentially ‘combi’ airliners, the ‘Yukon IIs ‘ will require little further funding to realize. Developing an all new martime patrol aircraft may seem more daunting. But, here too, the CSeries CS110 airframe development  has been paid for and detail development can be both supported and  tailored by the Air Force. Under AIMP, half  the CP-140 fleet is to retire. One Aurora could act as a  ‘CX-140’  avionics testbed  for  the ‘Argus II ‘, allowing seamless integration of  avionics from AIMP into the CSeries airframe. That would be the basis for a ‘CP-207A’ to replace the Aurora. Future avionics upgrades for a CSeries-based ‘Argus II ‘  would ensure Canada of a  first-rate patrol aircraft for decades. A Canadian development of  a Canadian aircraft in Canadian service.

The Government of  Canada is paying for at least part of the development costs for the CSeries. If Bombardier knew that a TSTT variant was of  interest, features could be incorporated into the aircraft before the final  design work was completed.  The necessary airframe adaptations would be minimal.  Other than the outer wing mounting points for refuelling pods, there would be only superficial differences between a TSTT and  a standard CSeries civilian cargo / combi transport.

In return for a little planning and a modest investment in militarizing the CSeries,  Canada would gain a force multiplier and mobility aid that is the envy of our allies. Aquiring militarized CSeries in the TSTT ‘Yukon II ‘ guise would be a good start to long term support of  Canada’s aerospace industry. That support would be reinforced every time the TSTT called in at military and civilian airfields used  by the CF thoughout North America. Aquiring the complimentary maritime patrol ‘Argus II ‘ would be an even stronger sign of support for, and confidence in, Canada’s aerospace industry and its products while also solving the CF requirement for future Aurora replacements.

[1] Boeing originally designed the aircraft to carry 115 passengers but that 737-100 did not sell well (only 30 were built). The -200 series was stretched to carry 130 passengers (but this variant also included the MP Surveiller, Boeing’s first attempt to produce a 737 maritime patrol variant). Later 737s carried more passengers The -800 and -900 models upon which the P-8A Poseidon is based seat between 185 and 220.  Boeing is now considering ‘short ‘ 737s with geared turbofans. The CSeries is a competitor against any hypothetical smaller variant of the 737.



15 year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces. I now write to let the thoughts in my head get out where I can see 'em. :)

Posted in Acquisitions, Allies, Canadian American Strategic Review, Canadian Forces, Canadian Industry, Modest Proposal, RCAF, RCN, Sovereignty
3 comments on “Argus II?
  1. Peter Marshall says:

    So the Swordfish becomes the Argus II. Non-stop Norpats with back up by UAV and satellite to investigate any anomalies. Some modest re-engineering would allow the high speed SKAD used on the CF-18 to be mounted under-wing. Five or six Argus II on the east coast and four on the west. That would allow for remote deployments similar to the Aurora’s tastings. Completely synthetic training for front and back. Modern mission planning (similar to C-130J) would complement the changeover and utilization of the aircraft.


  2. Peter Marshall says:

    Steve, I am not optimistic about a CSeries MP becoming the Argus II. However, there is a Canadian based MP aircraft in the form of the Saab Swordfish. It uses a BBD 6000. Saab says 70% of the cost of a P-8 and 50% of the operating cost and fully upgradable over the long term. It has a longer range than the P-8, advanced technology means a smaller crew needed and it is fully armed and can do C3 and possibly C4 as delivered.

    Liked by 1 person

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CASR has announced that it will cease operations on 31/December/2016.

I have grateful to have been given the opportunity to write for them, and to repost my material on Defence Muse.

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