The Government of Canada announced a C$2.49bn ($1.87bn) investment on 19 December 2023, for a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) to add to the capabilities of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). 

The RPAS, roughly the size of a fighter jet, is distinct from the broad range of drones employed in other military capacities in that it must follow airworthiness standards applicable to crewed aircraft. 

The first delivery of the RPAS is anticipated in 2028, with full operational capability by 2033. The purchase is part of a larger investment in the RCAF, which includes new F-35 fighter jets, CC-330 Husky strategic tanker and transport aircraft, P-8A Poseidon multi-mission aircraft, and upgraded Cormorant helicopters.

“These investments will have tremendous impacts on our ability to support Canada’s national defence interests at home and abroad, and this is great news for our service members operating out of 14 Wing Greenwood,” said Kody Blois, Member of Parliament for Kings-Hants.

The RPAS will be used for monitoring Canada’s territory and coastline, aiding in civilian operations like forest fire and flood responses, and providing military units with real-time ISR capabilities. The aircraft will also enhance Canada’s contributions to NORAD and Nato, improving interoperability with US and Nato forces.

“Today’s important announcement is critical to the operations of the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Marie-France Lalonde, Canda’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence. “The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System project will significantly enhance Canada’s contributions to joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance with our allies, and help keep Canadians across the country safe.”

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The RPAS contract with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems includes eleven remotely piloted aircraft, six ground control stations, a ground control centre, two aircraft hangars, armaments, sustainment services, a comprehensive training solution, and supporting technology.

The RPAS aircraft will be stationed at 14 Wing Greenwood, NS, and 19 Wing Comox, BC, with operations supported by a new infrastructure in Ottawa and the existing bases. The project will involve approximately 55 CAF and DND personnel at 14 Wing Greenwood, 25 at 19 Wing Comox, and 160 at the ground control centre in Ottawa, plus additional deployments to support operations in Northern Canada.