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CC-144 R&O

Canadian Forces  Aircraft   —   Bombardier  CC-144  Challenger

  Also see: Background  CF EW Training and CATS/ICATS,  and  Modest Proposals  Renewed CF EW Training and NASP Challenger.

The six  CC-144 Challengers gain little attention. Four of these jet aircraft serve as VIP transports, the other two operate in the utility role. CC-144s tend to get  bad press  when media notices them at all.  In part,  this is due to the 'optics' inherent in cabinet ministers 'pampered' in executive jets. This perception was reinforced in 2002 when the Chrétien government ordered two new executive model Challengers for use by Cabinet. [1]  This untendered order (amounting to $101M+) caused a political storm in light of the lack of movement on higher priority procurement items.

CC-144s were more plentiful in the past – 18 Challengers of different models have served as transports, patrol aircraft, and electronic 'spoofers'. Many of  the early Challengers were withdrawn  in  2000 as an economy measure and sold. [2] All of the CE-144 'spoofers' would be replaced by private contractor aircraft. [3]  All maritime patrol duty reverted  back to the Aurora fleet.

  CC-144 (604) Challenger — Specs
  Dimen:
  [4]
  Span 19.6m, wing area 41.8
  m, length 20.85m, ht. 6.3m
  Power:   2 x 38.8kN GE CF-34-3Bs
  Ceiling:   Service 12496 m  (41000 ft)
  Range:   6236 km  (3365 nm) max
 Weight:   21591 kg (MTOW)
  Speed:
 
  882 km/h  (max. cruise)
  787km/h,  (econ. cruise)

The two dark-blue utility Challengers deserved more attention. As mid-range transports these CC-144s lacked glamour but they were convertible to medevac configuration (and, during the combat phase of the Afghanistan deployment, were used to fly wounded CF personnel back to Canada from military hospitals in Germany). For such medevac flights alone, the Challengers deserve a higher  profile. So why are the CC-144s so unpopular? For the RCAF, Transport Canada owning the Challengers may makes the CC-144s seem less like military aircraft. And there's the hassles of having three sub-types in service. [5]

For the Government of Canada, there is the 'optics' of flying Cabinet Ministers around in bizjets. Not all Challengers are VIP types but that is how they 'read' to citizens. When in opposition, the current government made political hay with those VIP Challengers. Now they are chopping the fleet. Ironically, they will be keeping the two new VIP Challengers bought by their predecessors. It's the older, utility types that will be cut (along with their medevac potential ). [6]  Still, there is economy in maintaining a single Challenger model in service. Other countries employ that same CL-604 type for dedicated medevac or, in its CL-604 MMA guise, as a multi-purpose patrol aircraft. There are roles for fast long-range aircraft beyond flying VIPs. But, thus far, Canada and  the RCAF have shown no interest.

[1] These new aircraft were CL-604s – a Bombardier/Canadair model number. Of the remaining early Challengers, one VIP (Administrative Flight Services or AFS in CF parlance) aircraft is a CL-600S model, the other is a CL-601 model. The two utility Challengers are both 601s.
[2] Initially, six of  the CF's 10 patrol and 'electric' Challengers were to be eliminated. Then it was decided  to stand-down 434 Sqn and  to dispose of most of the Challengers. Eight aircraft were sold off  while the two CE-144s were converted back into CC-144 utility transports. For a complete listing of  Canadian Forces CC-144 and CE-144 Challengers, see Bill Walker's Canadian Military  Aircraft  Serial  Numbers.
[3] The Contracted Airborne Training Services is an Alternative Service Delivery plan substituting aircraft and crews provided by private contractor. Top Aces Consulting uses ex-Luftwaffe Dassault Dornier Alpha Jet training aircraft to 'spoof ' attack  Canadian naval vessels.
[4] Specifications given on the CF's CC-144 page differ. There are as follows: span 18.84 m, length 20.85m, height 5.84 m, max gross weight 18779 kg, range 22003200 nm. However, the page also includes in the CC-144 current equipment, "Electronic warfare training equipment".
[5] There is a general Air Force hostility to Canadian-made aircraft, springing from a fear of  having inappropriate equipment  foisted upon them. However, procurement choices are political by nature. Put another way, why shouldn't procurement benefit the nation's industries?
[6] The aircraft to be retired are the 1983 vintage CL-600S (CL 600-1A11) 144601 (damaged by bird strike in May 2012 ), plus three CL-601 (CL 600-2A12) models ( 144614, 144615, and 144616). The two VIP-configured CL-604s (CL-600-2B16s) (144617 and 144618) are to be kept.