By: David Pugliese, The National Post
A Canadian firm wants Ottawa to buy older transport aircraft from Norway, saying this could significantly boost the military’s capabilities in the Arctic relatively cheaply.
The five C-130H aircraft, modernized before they were put in storage in the U.S. and with about 50 per cent of their flying time remaining, could be acquired for about $60 million, says Tom Edmison, president of Total Corporate Aviation Services.
The deal would include tens of thousands of parts for the aircraft, which could also be used for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s existing C-130H transport planes.
“These aircraft have everything you need to operate in the Arctic,” said Edmison, a veteran pilot whose firm has offices in Calgary and Sidney, B.C.
“They’re fine airplanes. And the original replacement value for those parts is probably worth more than the airplanes.”
The proposal comes as the Liberal government, in the midst of its defence review, is seeking input on how to improve Canada’s military capabilities, including providing more of a presence in the Far North.
The original replacement value for those parts is probably worth more than the airplanes.
Edmison said the aircraft could be bought outright or acquired by Total Corporate Aviation Services, then leased to the government for Arctic operations, but flown by RCAF crews.
Some Canadian military leaders have complained about tight budgets, prompting industry to suggest innovative solutions.
Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax has proposed leasing a commercial vessel that would be converted to a multi-mission support ship for humanitarian and peacekeeping operations. The vessel would be offered on a five-year lease and have a 30-member civilian crew.
Ottawa has also entered into a lease arrangement with a sister firm to Davie Shipyards for a commercial vessel that is being converted into a refuelling and supply ship for the navy. The ship will be operated by a civilian crew, plus a few navy personnel to handle military-related duties.
Norway stored the C-130s after it bought newer J models of the same aircraft. It paid about $600-million for the four C-130J planes, plus associated equipment
The planes are being stored at a U.S. government facility in Tucson, Ariz., at a cost of $750,000 a year, so there is an economic reason to sell the planes, Edmison said.
The aircraft were originally maintained for Norway at a facility in Canada.
Edmison says his proposal offers a low-cost way of boosting Canada’s presence in the Far North over the shorter term until the military can decide how it can meet the government’s desire to establish more of a presence in the region.
“They’re low-time airplanes and they would fit perfectly to augment the Canadian military as a bridge to the future,” he added.
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The RCAF currently has 12 C-130H planes, said spokesman Maj. Alexandre Cadieux.
Renee Filiatrault, a spokeswoman for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said she had not heard about the C-130H pitch, but would not be able to comment anyway on a specific proposal.
“We’re currently undergoing a defence policy review, which will help the government determine future direction and priorities so our military is well equipped and prepared in the years to come, including as it relates to the Arctic,” she said.
Any proposal to acquire used equipment is bound to face an uphill battle from Department of National Defence bureaucrats and air force officers, Edmison said.
“Of course they want to buy brand new planes but if they don’t have the money or if it is going to take years, then why not go this route?” he asked.
“For a relatively low cost, the air force gets a capability it needs.”