Author Topic: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II  (Read 370 times)

Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« on: May 12, 2022, 09:51:29 AM »
Another pilfered idea. This was going to be a quickie. And then the StoryMonster took over ... 'Down, down, you Demons of Verbosity!'

Part One

Soldiering On - Canada's Airbus CP-150A Arcturus

In a sense, the CP-150A Arcturus was an ancilliary outcome of the Government of Canada's Strategic Tanker Transport Capability (STTC) programme. But the CP-150A was just as much a byproduct of the Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP). The former was a replacement programme for the RCAF's Airbus CC-150 Polaris Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT). The latter was an on-going moderization programme for Canada's remaining fleet of 14 CP-140M Aurora maritime patrol and strategic surveillance aircraft.

AIMP Block IV produced a much more capable patrol aircraft but one still based upon 43-year-old P-3 Orion airframes. The CP-140M fleet had also undergone the Aurora Structural Life Extension Project (ASLEP) which included the complete replacing of wings and horizontal tail surfaces. AIMP aimed at modernizing systems, while ALSEP was intended to extend the CP-140M's service life out to 2030. The only fly in the ointment was that the overall fleet had been whittled down to 14 from a high of 21 airframes. [1] Realistically, extended the life-span of this small fleet could only be accomplished by a drastic reduction of overall flying hours. This was accomplished with two major operational changes.

The first CP-140M operational change was an immediate ban on airshow appearances and the cessation of non-operational deployments to foreign bases (for courtesy visits and the like). A less immediate change was the search for a replacement type to perform the very long-range Northern Patrols (NORPATs) across the Canadian High Arctic. Some of the NORPAT burden was shouldered by the smaller CP-144E Challenger coastal patrol aircraft. [2] The Challengers have a surprisingly long range but, obviously, NORPATs required a larger airframe capable of carrying more sophisticated sensors and the crew to operate such equipment.

Back to the Future - Reconsidering Retirement Options

Despite having been upgraded (some to CC-150T tanker configuration) the RCAF's Airbus CC-150 Polaris fleet was due to be retired before the older CP-140s. The Polaris (Airbus A-310-300Fs) had been delivered to Canadian Airlines in 1990. So, although dated, there was still airframe life left in the CC-150 fleet. However, the decision had been made to fulfil the STTC requirement with A330-200Fs as the Airbus CC-250T Polaris II MRTT. In the meantime, DND's Canadian Arctic Sovereignty and Aerial Surveillance Platform (CASASP) Project had stalled through lack of suitable candidates. An earlier search for UAVs had proved equally fruitless. [3] It had been hoped that the new Airbus CC-295W Kingfisher FWSAR would be able to fill in seasonally but, perhaps predictably, that scheme wasn't panning out.

Then the obvious question arose at the Directorate of Aerospace Requirements: Why are we retiring a long-range type with airframe life remaining? Obviously the new CC-250T Polaris IIs would be superior in performance and reliability to their predecessors in the MRTT role. But could the old CC-150s not be usefully employed as temporary fill-ins for the CASASP Project? If so, what would be involved in reconfiguring the older Airbus for their new role? And what sensor suite would need to be added to perform the Arctic Sovereignty role?

Towards the Renewed Airbus - Birthing Pains for the CP-150A Arcturus

From its inception, the 'Patrol Polaris I' concept was seen as a temporary patch - hence its description as an 'iCASASP' (or Interim CASASP). First priority was a minimal 're-life' - the Polaris Structural Life Extension Project (PSLEP). Second priority was determining the required equipment fit. That created an immediate problem - 'iCASASP' came under the Directorate of Air Requirements 3 (Maritime/EW/AVS) while PSLEP remained under DAR 2 (SAR/Air Mobility). Since PSLEP mainly involved basic MRO and stripping of passenger/cargo fittings, that phase was mercifully brief. However, DAR 3 had a tougher job since 'iCASASP' remained relatively undefined. As submitted, the 'iCASASP' Draft A appeared to be more of a 'wish list' than a realistic refit for 32-year-old airframes.

The Airbus nose was much enlarged to fit a new surface search radar. This was based upon the same Raytheon AN/APY-10 set which equipped DAR 3's hoped for Boeing P-8A Poseidon ... but with an enlarged antenna to extend range. The new nose cap also housed a retractable Wescam MX-20 E/O. To the rear, the new nose faired into an underside 'blister' housing the new A330-200F-style nose gear (for commonality with the CC-250 MRTTs). Directly behind the nose gear was a bolt-on 'canoe' for the removeable Raytheon AN/APS-149 Littoral Surveillance Radar System (LSRS). Above the forward cargo door was a large dorsal radome for the Wideband Global SATCOM antenna. The airframe was also festooned with an 'antennae farm' typical of modern maritime patrol and ISR types. These add-ons finished at the tail with a MAD 'stinger' - the same as AN/ASQ-508 antenna as that on the CP-140M.

The planned budget for this proposed Draft A 'Interim Canadian Arctic Sovereignty and Aerial Surveillance Platform' was also its death-knell. A revised Draft A(1) was too little, too late. The sensor suite cost alone ensured that Draft A would be passed over.

(To be continued ...)

[1] Delivered between 1979-82, the 18 CP-140 Auroras were followed in 1992-93 by 3 x CP-140A Arcturus to fill in on non-ASW roles. The object of the CP-140A was to reduce flying hours on the more fully-equipped CP-140s.

[2] The CP-144Es took a bite out of the future Canadian Multi-Mission Aircraft (CMA) Project (which was to purchase ISR King Airs). In effect, the CP-144E was a CP-144D VIP transport fitted with sensors for its patrol role. Both CP-144D and CP-144E are military variants of the Bombardier Challenger 650 biz-jet.

[3] It had been concluded that, with few 'boots on the ground' in its High Arctic, Canadian sovereignty over that territory could be best asserted with manned vehicles patrolling overhead. In any case, DND's investigation of MALE and HALE UAVs - the JUSTAS (Joint Uninhabited Surveillance and Target Acquisition System) Project had begun to fizzle back in March 2013. The JUSTAS PMO - since renamed PMO RPAS (for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) under DAR 8 - received a proposal from Northrop Grumman to use their MQ-4C Polar Hawk UAV for NORPATs. That didn't go anywhere either. Beyond expense (and system complexity) the biggest argument against HALE UAVs was that, by definition, they were unmanned.

"How we jigger it and figure it. Mistaking value for the price."

Offline Kerick

  • Newly Joined - Welcome me!
Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2022, 11:09:37 AM »
Love your illustration. It’s a great idea and not too hard to build.
I did something a little like this awhile back with a 737. I moved the wing to the top of the fuselage and main gear sponsons. This moved the engines out of FOD danger when operating out of rough fields. Added a few lumps and bumps but not as detailed as yours.

Best pics are on reply #17.
I’ll be watching for any and all follow up designs!
« Last Edit: May 12, 2022, 11:41:27 AM by Kerick »

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2022, 01:30:29 AM »
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

You can't outrun Death forever.
But you can make the Bastard work for it.

Offline kitnut617

  • Measures the actual aircraft before modelling it...we have the photographic evidence.
  • I'd rather be dirtbike riding
Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2022, 05:46:59 AM »
Just a quick warning Stephen, looking at my 1/72 A310 kit, the main gear wheel bay doors are quite close together, I don't think the canoe will fit between them, and the front end of the wheel bay is about mid wing root position.

Offline RayS

  • Occasional Whiffer
Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2022, 06:45:35 AM »
Looking forward to this one, I am loving your backstories. Plenty of detail and acronyms! :-)

Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2022, 10:31:42 AM »

Kerick: I remember your build! It was awesome  :smiley:  Anyone here not see his high-winged 737?  Get on over there!

Looking forward to this one, I am loving your backstories. Plenty of detail and acronyms! :-)

Ray: You are sick and twisted ... and a man after my own heart  ;D
"How we jigger it and figure it. Mistaking value for the price."

Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2022, 10:32:58 AM »
Part Two

Soldiering On - Canada's Airbus CP-150A Arcturus

If Draft A of the 'Interim Canadian Arctic Sovereignty and Aerial Surveillance Platform' was a bit of wishful thinking, Draft B 'iCASASP' was positively spartan by comparison. In its earliest version, the sensor fit consisted of the basic gear from the CP-140M (AIMP Block IV) - nose-mounted LMC (Telephonics/MDA) AN/APS-508 surface search imaging radar (complete with CP-140M radome) and Wescam AN/ASX-4 (MX-20HD) electro-optical turret with its retractable mount. Gone were Draft A features such as mounts for the Raytheon AN/APS-149 LSRS antennae, all sonobuoy related equipment, and the CAE AN/ASQ-508 magnetic anomaly detector (although the 'empty' MAD tail boom remained). [1] The effect was simply that of a CC-150 Polaris with a slightly odd-looking nose.

As these decisions were being made, MRO work on Polaris 15004 was already underway. Much to the consternation of IMP Aerospace & Defence in Halifax, the first phase of the Polaris Structural Life Extension Project (PSLEP) contract had been awarded to Montreal-based budget carrier Air Transat. The award was fairly obviously motivated by Ottawa's desire to prop up Air Transat in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic service interruptions. However, Air Transat had also been a longtime operator of Airbus A310-300 and retained useful type expertise as well as tools (mainly retained for Air Transat's dozen in-service Airbus A330-200s). Air Transat had also been very amenable to DND's request for 'mixed' ground crews - with in-uniform RCAF ACS Techs working alongside Air Transat mechanics during Polaris inspection and strip-down (PSLEP Phase I). [2]

Firming Up Draft B - Enroute to the CP-150A Arcturus

As PSLEP Phase I progressed, previously undetected corrosion was treated and remedied. Stripping of now-redundant wiring also suggested opportunities to DAR 3 which passed on revised instructions for RCAF AVN and AVS Techs in advance of PSLEP Phase III. [3] There was also a change of plans regarding the deleted magnetic anomaly detector. ASW would still not be a primary role for 'iCASASP' aircraft. However, as a hedge against the future, it was decided to wire the MAD tailboom 'stinger'. [4] Part and parcel with this was providing 'bolt-in' space for possible sonobuoy launch tubes and avionics. This was a matter of being 'equipped for but not with' just in case a future decision in favour of Arctic ASW was made.

To this point, the 'iCASASP' programme had been a fairly low-key affair. However, for reasons of its own, the Government of Canada chose this time to unveil 'iCASASP' more publicly. Announced as the CP-150 Arcturus, the type was presented as a relatively low-cost repurposing of airframes already in RCAF service. And that was a fair summary of 'iCASASP'. But the publicity inherit in this unveilling put a degree of media pressure on both the Department of National Defence and Air Transat to perform on schedule and on budget. The heat was on to finalize all features and get the first CP-150 Arcturus into the air as soon as possible.

One feature was so useful for High Arctic operations that it is difficult to explain how it was ever deleted. That was Draft A's proposed Wideband Global SATCOM system. As a part of the CP-150 'firming up', the BAE Systems AN/ARC-234 SATCOM was belatedly reinstated. However, structural analysis suggested that the big SATCOM dorsal radome should be moved aft (away from the large freight door fuselage cutout). Modified winglets with ECM receiver antennae incorporated had also been abandoned. But it was decided that the four ECM receivers could be installed fairly easily if the existing winglets were simply removed. The final wingtips fitted looked rather like elongated CP-140M tips - which, in effect, was exactly what they were. No other immediate changes were ordered and the CP-150M work sheets were now considered 'firm'.

(To be continued ...)


[1] This was based on a conclusion that the aging Airbus airframe was unsuited to the low-and-slow flight pattern of ASW. In  any case, the planned 'iCASASP' would be operating high above the frozen Arctic Ocean for much of the year. During the brief Northern Summer, CP-140Ms could be detailled to ASW operations in the Arctic (without the need to also perform NORPATs).

[2] This willingness to work directly with RCAF personnel had scored Air Transat extra points in its PSLEP(I) Request for Proposals response.

[3] PSLEP Phase II was the modification of CC-150 roll-on/roll-off pallets to accommodate work stations and other fittings needed for the transformation of the Polaris fleet into Arctic patrollers.

[4] There was a precedent. Throughout their careers, the CP-140A fleet had flown with 'empty' MAD tail booms.
"How we jigger it and figure it. Mistaking value for the price."

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2022, 01:19:39 AM »
Oh that nose is going to get a nick-name... ;)
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

You can't outrun Death forever.
But you can make the Bastard work for it.

Offline Robomog

  • ...had a very bad experience with [an] orange...
  • Would you buy a used kit from this man?
Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2022, 10:41:45 PM »
Bottle nose ?

Exits fast............................

Mostly Harmless...............

Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2022, 05:27:42 AM »
Part Three

First it's Smooth, Then it's Bumpy - Canada's Airbus CP-150A Arcturus

In reality, turning the CC-150s into CP-150s was not as challenging as it sounds. After decades of service, the fleet were already fitted out to military standards. That left specific airframe modifications needed to mount surface-search radar, the MAD tail boom, and other sensors required for the Northern Patrol (NORPAT) role. Technically, this work fell under Phase I of the Polaris Structural Life Extension Project (PSLEP) contract. But, wisely, Air Transat had chose to sub-contract this work to Field Aviation, a Toronto firm with experience in adapting existing transport airframes into 'Special Mission Aircraft'. All such airframe modifications arrived at Montreal as sub-assemblies ready for installation by Air Transats. RCAF AVN and AVS Techs then installed and ground-tested sensors and avionics.

Thus far, the physical work involved in PSLEP Phase I was proceeding fairly smoothly. In Halifax, PSLEP Phase II faced an added challenge when the GoC took an opportunity to sell-off the VIP-configured Polaris. With 15001 on its way to a new life serving the government of the Central African Republic, the chore of converting the four remaining, standardized Polaris was actually simplified. But IMP Aerospace & Defence no longer had access to a 'mule' airframe on which to test its modified pallets and containers. However, when it was decided that only three CC-150s would be fully converted, the redundant 15003 was transferred from CFB Trenton to Halifax to fill in. [1]

Vagaries - The Inevitable Effect of Events on the Best-Laid Plans

Wishful thinking has very little place in policy-making. A renewed American interest in actively pushing FONOPs through the Northwest Passage was all but inevitable. But successive governments in Ottawa had done nothing other than to hope that it would not be on their watch when such direct challenges to Canadian sovereignty did occur. And now it had. Both US Coast Guard and US Navy ships had made previous voyages through the NWP. But these had always been with advanced notice to the Government of Canada followed by assistance from Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers. No such reactive sovereignty-assertion window-dressing this time. America was out to make its point on Freedom of Navigation.

The US-flagged and ice-capable tanker M/V Maersk Peary had taken on crude oil at the new Prudhoe Bay Marine Terminal (PBMT) before leaving the North Slope behind to join her US Coast Guard escorts in the Beaufort Sea. Lead escort was the rather tired USCGC Healy (WAGB-20) - a medium icebreaker. Back-up was provided by the newer USCGC Murkowski (WLBB-40), a former Viking class ice-classed supply tug. [2] The objective was the German oil terminal at Hamburg-Waltershof. This was said to be part of fulfilling US commitments made to Germany about replacing boycotted Russian fossil fuels. Just as LNG was coming to German ports from the US East Coast and oil from the Gulf Coast, Alaskan crude could be shipped across the Arctic during the brief melt of Summer. And Canada would have no say in the matter.

Canadian officials were blissfully unaware of this US flotilla until it was spotted by fishermen off of Sachs Harbour on Banks Island. Alerted, Canadian Rangers then tracked the Americans' progress as these ships rounded the Nelson Head cliffs on the southern tip of the island. The US flotilla then entered the north-south running Prince of Wales Strait. In the meantime, consternation in Ottawa had translated into demands for some form of official action. The nearest GoC aerial asset was a slow-flying patrol aircraft belonging to the National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP). It would not be enough and the RCAF was already planning flights by patrol aircraft from the south.

Planning on the Fly - Non-Diplomatic Responses to the US Incursion

NASP's Moncton-based Dash 8 was already deployed in Nunavut. But that Dash 8 was operating out of the NASP Arctic Hangar and Accommodations Unit (AHAU) at Iqaluit (while performing DFO's High Arctic Cetacean Survey in the waters around Baffin and Ellesmere islands). A direct 1,707 km flight from Iqaluit (YFB) to Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island was out of the question. That was within the DHC-8-102's maximum range but left insufficient operating margins of safety for the High Arctic. Thus, this NASP aircraft would stop off at Rankin Inlet (YRT) on the Kudlulik Peninsula for rest and refuelling. With this stop-over, the NASP transit would take about 6 hours just to reach Cambridge Bay. [3] Still, on arrival, that modest transit speed also translated into multiple low-and-slow passes over the US interlopers.

Further south, plans to deploy CP-140M Aurora's from 19 Wing at CFB Comox, BC, and 14 Wing at CFB Greenwood, Nova Scotia. However, the Commanding Officer of 14 Wing - Colonel Bruno Baker - made a bold alternative suggestion. Send the Auroras from 405 LRP Sqn towards Iqaluit, NU, and 407 LRP Sqn towards Iqaluit, NWT, by all means. But, in the meantime, fly the partially kitted-out CP-150 TBA (Test-Bed Airframe) over Prince of Wales Strait. Col Baker's crews had been training at 14 Wing's Throney Island Simulation Centre in readiness for 415 Long Range Patrol Force Development Squadron taking on the new Arcturus II. [4] A quick call to the contact person at IMP Aerospace & Defence confirmed that CP-150 TBA 15002 was basically airworthy and ready to roll.

Once the Chief of Air Force Staff received a go-ahead from the Prime Minister's Office, Col Baker was ordering his crews into pre-arranged 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron Hercules for the short hop to the IMP facility at Halifax Stanfield (YHZ). [5] There they would meet up with a flight crew from 437 Transport Squadron who had flown in from CFB Trenton. Although their squadron had transitioned over to the new Airbus CC-250 Polaris II (A-330-200F MRTT), the 437 (T) Sqn personnel had extensive prior experience on the Polaris. The 437 (T) Sqn flight crew would take the outboard flight, with the object of leaving the trainee crew from 415 LRP-FD Sqn 'fresh' and able to fly the Maritime Patrol leg over the Beaufort Sea.

Into the Void - Test Bed Over the Frozen Tundra

The transit flight was made in two stages. The 437 (T) Sqn crew flew the CP-150 TBA the 3,755 km leg from Halifax (YHZ) to CFS Yellowknife (at YZF). After this 5 hour flight, the aircraft was ground-checked and refuelled before turning over to the 415 LRP-FD Sqn crew. In the meantime, Canadian Forces Northern Area Headquarters at CFB Yellowknife had reconfirmed the go-ahead from Ottawa. Within half an hour, Colonel Baker's crew was taxiing 15002 out for a 1,000 km flight to the mid-point of Prince of Wales Strait.

(To be continued ...)


[1] Polaris 15003 would fulfil its PSLEP Phase I 'mule' role before becoming a 'CT-150' crew trainer for the CP-150A fleet. Of the other three airframes, 15002 differed from the rest solely in lacking the MRTT modifications. As far a sensor fit and other aspects relevant to NORPATs, the three CP-150As were virtually identical.

[2] Named for Alaskan senior senator, Lisa Ann Murkowski, WLBB-40 had been Magne Viking. However, at the start of Putin's ill-considered war against Ukraine, Viking Supply Ships AB gave up its Russian contracts. The ship was sold off in an attempt to recoup some of Viking's €18.5M loss.

[3] At 1,175 km, the flight from YFB to YRT would take 2.45 hour flight (at 500 km/h) with a reasonable safety margin. The stop-over was estimated at 1.25 hours (for a crew break and fuelling). Then, the YRT to YCB leg would take another 2 hours.

[4] Although official, the full Arcturus II name was almost never used. The original CP-140A 'Arcturus I' had been retired from service for over a decade. Younger RCAF members didn't even remember the CP-140A. Accordingly, in common use, the CP-150 was simply the Arcturus.

[5] The drive from the Annapolis Valley to YHZ would only take 1.5 hours but time was of the essence. Beyond the CC-130 on SAR stand-by, another Herc was available (413 TRS flies both Hercules and CH-149 Cormorant SAR helicopters).
"How we jigger it and figure it. Mistaking value for the price."

Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2022, 11:38:57 AM »
Part Four

Arcturus into Action - An Operational Test Flight?

Colonel Bruno Baker and his crew took off from CFB Yellowknife in total darkness just after 2:00 am. It would take the CP-150 Arcturus Test Bed Aircraft just over an hour's flying time to reach the mid-point of Prince of Wales Strait. But Arcturus 15002 would not be the first Canadian aircraft to reach the scene. Even before the Arcturus had arrived at Yellowknife, a NASP Dash 8 had located the American interlopers. The weary NASP crew had arrived over the US flotilla just before dusk the evening before. There was only time to perform two low-level passes over the American ships before the sun slid below the horizon at 11:10 pm. Then the NASP Dash 8 crew had to make their way back to Cambridge Bay in the dark.

Compared with the NASP crew, the RCAF personel were lucky. Their flight could be made mostly 'over' the weather. And their approach would be performed just as dawn broke. And so it played out. In consultation with the Airbus-experienced 437 (T) Sqn pilot riding shotgun in a jump-seat, Col Baker began his descent just south of the Victoria Island coast. This approach was timed to coincide with the 3:02 am sunrise. Having an ROD of 2,000 ft/min (610 m/min), the Arcturus came in tracking the western shores of Victoria Island. With the newly-risen sun blinding the US watches, 15002 screamed past the American ships at 3:16 am doing 290 knots (540 km/h) IAS. That early wake-up call probably sounded more impressive to those on the ships than it actually was.

The Arcturus TBA was something of a hollow shell. The nose-mounted AN/APS-508 surface search imaging radar was fully functioning. But the nose bay for the retractable EO/IR turret was empty. So too were the rear fuselage fixed camera mountings. Instead, each of the CP-150's portside observation bubble window positions was manned by crew members wielding still, infrared, or video cameras to record the transgression. Beyond this evidence-gathering, there was little the CP-150 TBA crew could do.

Climbing out, the Arcturus cleared Peel Point before circling around over Viscount Melville Sound. Nosing nose, Col Baker dropped 15002 back to 100 feet (30 m) altitude as the crew made its second overflight - this time at a mere 150 knots (280 km/h) IAS to give the photographers a better chance to record the scene. It was obvious, even before image analysis, that the Americans were struggling with unexpectedly high volumes of drift ice. Having just overflown the length of Prince of Wales Strait, the Arcturus crew knew that those conditions persisted from Gordon Point north to the opening into Viscount Melville Sound. Neither the USCG icebreakers nor, especially the M/V Maersk Peary were going to have an easy time of it. The latter was a fully ice-capable tanker but both girth and her nature made the Maersk Peary the most vulnerable of the trio should this US flotilla become completely entrapped in the drift ice.

Arcturus Overhead, Politics All Around

There had also been an early start in the Pearson Building on Sussex Drive in Ottawa. Officials from Global Affairs Canada had been tracking the CP-150 TBA flight since 5:00 am EDT. Infrared footage from the previous evening's NASP flyover had already been reviewed against previously-received RADARSAT-2 scans. Now photography from the Arcturus flyovers were coming in via NDHQ. RCAF image intepreters were also on hand to answer queries. But to the foreign affairs wonks, these were all just details. The pressing issue was what recommendations to present to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Mélanie Joly, who was due to arrive at the Pearson Building at 7:30 am. That presentation would be shared by teleconference with Kirsten Hillman, Canada's Ambassador to the United States.

Ambassador Hillman had registered a formal complaint with the US government shortly after confirmation of the US incursion by the evening overflight by NASP. Minister Joly had scheduled a virtual meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for 11:30 am. In both cases, the responses were pro forma. No notice had been given because the United States was simply exercising its right to freedom of navigation in international waters. Ottawa's errant claims of 'internal waterways' were categorically rejected. However, Canada's cooperation was anticipated since, after all, this fuel shipment was intended to help secure a fellow NATO member - Germany. Surely Ottawa felt an obligation to uphold both its alliance commitments and the Rules-Based International Order?

Oblivious to the political manoeuvring down South, the CP-150 Arcturus had spelled off by the arrival over Banks Island of a CP-140M Aurora of 407 LRP Squadron up from Comox. After recovering to CFB Yellowknife for rest and refuelling, 15002 was checked over before its next departure. This routine continued for three days as the US ships struggled north through Prince of Wales Strait. The drift ice being spewed out of the Beaufort Gyre was being swept south by currents to clog the Strait. Once beyond Point Peel, the US flotilla found it easier going in the more open waters of Viscount Melville Sound. The drift ice continued east along the Sound but it was now coming from astern and less of an impediment to progress. The US ships increased their speeds and the patrol pattern of the Canadian surveillance aircraft changed to match. The first change was the relocation of the NASP Dash 8 from Cambridge Bay up to Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island to follow the Americans' progress along Barrow Strait.

"Carried away on the flowing current ..."

Conspicuous by their absence in all of this was the Canadian Coast Guard. In response to American official replies to Canada's formal protest, the US were informed that no assistance of any kind would be forthcoming from the CCG. As it happened, the CCGS Amundsen (CGDT) was already on station in the Liddon Gulf on scientific work. The stop-over of CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent (CGBN) at Iqaluit was artificially extended. And the CCGS Terry Fox (CGTF) was ordered into harbour at Pond Inlet where she was to remain until the US ships had passed.

As the US flotilla moved inexorably eastward, the 407 CP-140M withdrew to be replaced by a 405 Aurora based at Iqaluit - where it was joined by the CP-150 FTA. Meanwhile, the NASP Dash 8 had relocated again - now to Nanisivik on the northwestern tip of Baffin Island. Eventually, the NASP Dash 8 too would relocate to Iqaluit. As the US flotilla rounded Bylot Island into Davis Strait, it was met by three ships of the Royal Canadian Navy - HMCS Margaret Brooke, a Harry DeWolf class Arctic OPV, and two Kingston MCDVs - HMCS Shawinigan (MM 704) and HMCS Moncton (MM 708). [1] All three vessels were station-keeping facing eastward while flying Code A 'divers down' flags. The object was to force the US ships onto a more mid-channel course away from Canadian territorial waters.

The US flotilla moved out into Davis Strait it received a rather more aggressive Danish display. Both Danish ice-resistant OPVs were on station - HDMS Knud Rasmussen (P 570) and HDMS Ejnar Mikkelsen (P 571). Following behind was the[iAbsalon[/i] class frigate HDMS Esbern Snare (F342). The Danes were there to ensure that Greenlandic territorial waters were respected by the Americans (the Danes having received no advance notice of their passing by). This exchange passed without incident. But, from a Canadian military point-of-view, this US flotilla was now a Danish problem to be sorted. The Canadian aerial patrols could be stood down. The NASP Dash 8 resumed its cetacean survey. The RCAF aircraft returned south. All was calm for the moment.

(To be continued ...)

[1] A third MCDV was called back from cooperative patrols in the Caribbean with the US Navy and US Coast Guard. Contrary to rumour, however, it was never intended that HMCS Glace Bay (MM 701) should join her sister-ships off Baffin Island.
"How we jigger it and figure it. Mistaking value for the price."

Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2022, 05:53:26 AM »
Part Five

Arctic Aftermath - Fall-Out and Future-Gazing

The unannounced and unescorted transit of the Northwest Passage (NWP) by US ships was now a fait accompli. Realistically, there had been no practical means by which Canada could have prevented it. Foreign policy wonks saw Ottawa's after-the-fact responses as being equally ineffectual. True, the VCDS had ordered all Defence Liaison Staff in Washington to return home along with the Acting Canadian Defence Attaché at the embassy, Capt(N) Bill Quinn. Likewise, all CF personnel serving at NORAD HQ in Colorado Springs were ordered to leave Peterson Space Force Base and, effective immediately, go on leave. The latter action being taken as Ottawa gave notice that it was initiating a fresh review of the NORAD Agreement (and NORAD modernization) in the new context of Canadian security and sovereignty. [1] A similar review was to be done of the Canada-US Combined Defence Plan (CDP).

Foreign policy critics were quick to point out that Canada stood to lose more by withdrawing from standing bilateral security agreements. And that was true. However, it would take a few more rotations of the screw before Ottawa would accept that, in the current situation, there was simply no way to save face. Canadian diplomatic efforts had produced no tangible results in either Washington or Berlin. [2] Nor were there any plausible economic sanctions which Canada could impose. [3] What was done had been done and there was no cure nor turning back the clock.

During the days of the American transit of the Northwest Passage, the Canadian media had limited access to images of the US flotilla. There were commercial satellite stills but no television images. The airspace above the moving flotilla had been declared a controlled Military Operations Areas by DND and a Class F restricted Special-Use Airspace by Transport Canada. As a result, no private aircraft could overfly the US flotilla. For the press, this meant that the only moving images available for broadcast were those taken from the RCAF and National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP) aircraft involved. [4] This footage generated a lot interest by the Canadian population in all three aircraft types involved. But the real drama was in the fast flypasts by the CP-150 TBA Arcturus. And very few Canadian procurement projects ever get such agreeable PR out of the gate.

NASP Expanded - Gaining Altitude and Speed

The immediate beneficiary of the NWP overflight was the National Aerial Surveillance Program. Most of the sensors aboard the NASP Dash 8 were not as large or powerful as their equivalents aboard  RCAF CP-140Ms. But the NASP Dash 8 also carried an MSS 7000 sensor suite dedicated to tracking pollutants on the ocean surface. Fortunately, there were no such spills during the US flotilla's NWP transit. But then, that was only know because the NASP operators were actively scanning and accessing the surrounding waters. For most such operation, the slow-flying Dash 8 was an ideal platform. However, the limitations of such aircraft over the vast distances covered in the High Arctic had now become very evident to decision-makers in Ottawa over 3,000 km to the south.

To properly fulfill its now-revised mandate for the Arctic, NASP would require faster-transiting jet aircraft. After examining the Bombardier Challenger 650, the choice fell upon its longer-cabined relative - the CRJ200. Now somewhat out of favour as a regional jet, used CRJ200 could be had at relatively low cost. Six CRJ200LR airframes were selected from storage in Tucson, AZ and flown north to Cascade Aerospace in BC. [5] At Abbotsford, Cascade stripped out all passenger accommodations from three CRJ200s before these 'empty' aircraft were transferred to Field Aviation for outfitting as NASP patrol aircraft. [6] These NASP CRJ200MS (Maritime Surveillance) conversions were similar to CRJ200PFs but equipped with MSS 7000 sensor suites identical to those of the NASP Dash 8 fleet. The CRJ200MS would be NASPs new 'eyes in the skies' for Arctic Patrols. [7]

Finally ... a Final, Finalized Arcturus

The CP-150 TBA sorties over the Northwest Passage had proved the usefulness of the Arcturus conversion. But, the CP-150 TBA was almost a hollow shell and operations over the NWP had revealed essential new roles for the Arcturus which would require dedicated sensor suites. Like the CRJ200MS, this primarily involved the installation of the MSS 7000 suite. Much of that just involved finding convenience spaces for IR/UV line scanners and SLAR antennae. But one obvious change for the relocation of the MX-20HD EO/IR turret in favour of a second radome in the 'chin' position. These changes resulted in a revised designation - CP-150A Arcturus.

The final equipment fit for the 'production Conversion' of the CP-150A Arcturus was as follows:

- LM Canada (Telephonics/MDA) AN/APS-508 surface search imaging radar (nose-mounted, complete with CP-140M radome)

- Leonardo Osprey 70 E-scan AESA surveillance radar (chin-mounted for MSS 7000 package, see below) [8]

- L3 Wescam AN/ASX-4 (MX-20HD) EO/IR turret (with retractable mount relocated aft to bay in fairing behind nose gear)

- ST Airborne Systems MSS 7000 environmental surveillance package (akin to NASP Dash 8 and CRJ200MS)
-- Saab SLAR (Side Looking Airborne Radar) antennae pairs (mounted fore and aft for more complete coverage)
-- Satellite Communications Systems (tied-in to CP-150A's dorsally-mounted Raytheon SATCOM antenna)
-- EMS SATCOM eNfusion Broadband high-speed data system with AIS (Automatic Identification Systems)
-- IR/UV (Infrared/Ultraviolet) line scanners (LD container-mounted in former aft luggage bay)
-- Remotely-operated, geo-coded Digital Camera Systems (mounted fore and aft)

- CAE AN/ASQ-502 magnetic anomaly detector antenna installed in formerly 'empty' tailboom housing [9]

With these revised sensor packages, the CP-150A Arcturus fleet seemed ready for the future.

Fall-Out and Future-Gazing for Pandora's Passage

By the start of following year's ice breakup, all three CP-150A Arcturus were fully kitted out and seasonally based at RCAF Forward Operating Locations - FOL Yellowknife and FOL Iqaluit (backed up by NASP aircraft flying out of FOL Rankin Inlet and FOL Inuvik). The surveillance conversion programmes had gone smoothly and Canada seemed much better equipped than it had been in the previous year. But, from a diplomatic viewpoint, it was clear that Canada was completely isolated. This was reinforced by EU statements of solidarity with the German position on Arctic waters - with even Copenhagen reluctantly adopting the EU policy.

There was no time to ponder on whether the US would attempt to repeat its unannounced transit of the Northwest Passage. The Americans were beat to the punch by a full month. Beaufort Sea ice at the western opening to the NWP began to break up at the start of July. And new interlopers appeared in the first week of that month. The commercial ship in question was the Chinese state-owned M/V Beijí wèilái (Arctic Future), a bulk carrier recently completed by Hudong Zhonghua Shipbuilding in Shanghai. The Beijí wèilái had a Polar Class 4 rating and, as a bulk carrier, at least there was no major oil spill potential. The bigger concern was the Chinese ship's paid escorts.

Leading the way and astern of the Beijí wèilái were two leased Rusian nuclear-powered icebreakers. These were the newer incarnation of the Sibr (Project 22220 type) and the older Taymyr-class Vaygach. Both Russian icebreakers were far more capable in thick ice than anything in the Canadian Coast Guard fleet. US FONOPs had established the Northwest Passage as 'international' waters but it would be a resource-hungry PRC which reaped the rewards. And, thanks to its Russian icebreakers-for-hire, China could transit through to Greenlandic mines and back again a full month before the US (or Canada) was capable of doing so.

An uncomfortable new future for the High Arctic had been unveilled but that is another story ...

( Fin ...)


[1] The Canada-US NORAD Agreement dated back to 1958 but had not been fully reviewed by either partner since 2017.

[2] The Auswärtiges Amt in Berlin had released 'Leitlinien deutscher Arktispolitik' back in September 2013. In this 'Guidelines on Germany Arctic Policy', the German Federal Government stated its support for any "campaigning for freedom of navigation in the Arctic Ocean (Northeast, Northwest and Transpolar Passages)." So, there were no mysteries as to which side Germany would back in this US-Canadian Arctic dispute.

[3] In the heat of the crisis, one GoC proposal had been to withdraw Federal permitting for Hydro-Québec’s Champlain-Hudson Power Express agreement with New York City as well as the Great Northern Transmission Line deal between Manitoba Hydro and Minnesota. However, legal experts at the Canada Energy Regulator (NEB, as was) strongly advised against such moves.

[4] The NASP Dash 8s were a fairly familiar sight to people in southwestern BC and around Moncton, NB. However, outside of those areas, many Canadians had been previously oblivious to the existence of the National Aerial Surveillance Program.

[5] Part of IMP Group, Cascade won a conversion contract up against Montréal-based MHI RJ Aviation Group. Both firms had experience with CRJ200 package freighter conversions. But Mitsubishi subsidiary MRI RJ also had strong connections in both the US and Germany, which played against it in this instance.

[6] The other three CRJ200LRs went to Transport Canada as 'combi' personnel/cargo transports for Arctic use.

[7] NASP Dash 8s still had a place in the Arctic, however. These slower aircraft were in their element on cetacean surveys such as that ironically interrupted by the US transit of the NWP.

[8] The Osprey 70 is a larger-antenna variant of the Leonardo Osprey 30 E-scan AESA set used in the NASP aircraft.

[9] These 'surplus' AN/ASQ-502 MAD antennae had been removed from CP-140 Auroras as part of AIMP. As a 'legasy' system, the AN/ASQ-502 was not ideal but they were 'bolt-ins' for 'empty' tailbooms and considered adequate for Arctic use by a non-ASW platform.

[10] There is no footnote 10. Not even I can drone on that long!
« Last Edit: May 20, 2022, 06:36:40 AM by apophenia »
"How we jigger it and figure it. Mistaking value for the price."

Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2022, 06:40:00 AM »
As everyone knows, any self-respecting Maritime Patrol Aircraft is distinguished by its whomping great search radar, a MAD bit poking out of its backside, and a nearly-uncountable number of bumps and greeblies.

However, Robert (kitnut617) has kindly pointed out that my Arcturus' extensive rear fuselage antennae farm would only be an encumberance until the first extreme rotation. At that point, all of those expensive aerials and goo-gahs would become a semi-permanent component of the tarmac substrate.

As the young would say: "That would be sub-optimal."  :o

Accordingly, all those potential runway-donor gubbins and greeblies have been redistributed to less suicidal locations. When posting Part Five, I also realized that I forgotten to add the fin-top Inmarsat radome to the artwork. So, rearranging the antennae farm gave me a second chance.

And I get to reinstate the text which was deleted in a last moment panic:

- Honeywell AMT-700 voice/data link via British Inmarsat satellite (tailfin top steerable antennae*)
-- * ARINC 781 High Gain Antenna (as retrofitted to RCAF CC-130Js were R4 Integration's C-130 MPHS)

So, a revised image of the 'production conversion' of the CP-150A Arcturus is attached below.

Many thanks again Robert  :smiley:
"How we jigger it and figure it. Mistaking value for the price."

Offline Litvyak

  • Shifting between quantum realities...
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    • Dominion of British Columbia
Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2022, 06:46:01 AM »
What a great story... gawd but did it ever aggravate me! ;)
"God save our Queen and heaven bless the Maple Leaf forever!"

Dominion of BC -

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Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Re: Airbus CP-150A Arcturus II
« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2022, 08:08:12 AM »
What a great story... gawd but did it ever aggravate me! ;)

Thanks Xen! But, yeah, the story was also meant to be a be-careful-what-you-wish-for type of "cautionary whale".  ;)
"How we jigger it and figure it. Mistaking value for the price."