The Canadian military is acquiring three spy planes under a US foreign military sales agreement to boost its aerial surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
With a combined price tag of $247 million, Canada’s new 350ER King Air spy planes will be fitted with cutting-edge surveillance gear such as MX-15D targeting equipment.
The gear features a powerful camera similar to those used in Ukraine to follow Russian troop movements and target airstrikes.
The planes will also be equipped with high-tech warning systems to quickly detect incoming threats and a countermeasures system for added protection.
The first of the three spy planes acquired by Canada is expected to be delivered this year.
Once in service, the 350ER King Air aircraft will be used by the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command for missions “at home and abroad.”
Developed by Textron Aviation’s Beechcraft, the 350ER King Air has reportedly become a “popular basis” for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance.
It can fly up to 2,311 nautical miles (4,279 kilometers/2,659 miles) and carry up to 10 personnel, including two crew.
The aircraft’s maximum speed is 303 knots (561 kilometers/348 miles per hour).
According to the company, the 350ER King Air spy plane offers “flexible, reconfigurable interiors” to make it “equally adept at accommodating passengers, cargo, air ambulance, or other missions.”
‘A Very Sophisticated Platform’
Retired Canadian lieutenant-general Steve Bowes said that acquiring the 350ER King Air enables Canada to catch up with allies Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and the US, who operate the same type of aircraft.
He also claims that if Canada had procured such spy planes at a much earlier date, they could have been used to support Canadian operations in the war in Afghanistan and against the Islamic State in northern Iraq.
“It can track individuals if you know what you are looking for,” Bowes told The Globe and Mail. “If you are looking at a specific building or site, it allows you to paint a picture of what is in a compound before you go knocking on the door.”
For retired Canadian lieutenant-colonel Steve Day, the spy plane can not only be used in international military missions but also to address domestic terrorist threats.
He described the 350ER King Air aircraft as a “very sophisticated platform” due to its state-of-the-art sensors and warning systems.