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The newly upgraded CP-140 Aurora Block IV completed its first test flight in late February.
An almost two-hour flight from Halifax to Greenwood, N.S., was conducted on Feb. 21 by the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) to confirm upgraded systems in the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF’s) premier intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance long-range patrol aircraft.
The flight was part of an initial assessment of the Block IV modifications to confirm the aircraft safe for flight, evaluate flight characteristics with the changes, and “identify possible sources of abnormal vibrations and aerodynamic noises,” the project office explained in an email.
The complex modifications are part of the Aurora Incremental Modernization Project (AIMP) and include beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) wideband satellite communications, Link 16 tactical data exchange network access, and infrared counter measures for self defence.
AETE will conduct over 50 hours of flight testing throughout 2020, including instrumented testing to measure flight characteristics and re-certify the flight and operational envelopes of the upgraded CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft.
“AETE’s engineering flight testing allows us to rigorously test equipment and aircraft in all extremes,” said the project office within the Assistant Deputy Minister Materiel group. The first flight was supported by ADM Materiel, IMP Aerospace and Defence, and 415 Long Range Patrol Force Development Squadron at 14 Wing Greenwood.
The RCAF expects to declare initial operational capability of the Block IV-modified CP-140 in June.
The fourth block of upgrades are the final step in a program that has involved 23 individual projects to acquire, integrate and install new mission systems and sensors onto the fleet of 14 Auroras, a four-engine turboprop variant of the Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion.
Under AIMP, Block I in the early 2000s replaced high frequency radios and standardized several obsolete systems across the entire fleet. Block II upgraded navigation, flight instruments, communications management and radar systems, rewiring much of the aircraft for Block III, which delivered new mission system architecture, including an array of sensors and data management systems, as well as tactical displays.
At the same time, all 14 aircraft have been part of the Aurora Structural Life Extension Project (ASLEP) to replace the outer wings, the lower section of the centre wing, the horizontal stabilizers and other components subject to fatigue.
The changes are expected to add about 15,000 flight hours to the airframes and extend their service life until 2030.
The first Block IV aircraft will remain at 14 Wing to conduct on-ground testing and training in preparation for operational use of its expanded capabilities.