Construction call goes out for $53M combat-drone base at CFB Comox

posted 16 days ago.

The CFB Comox facility will be part of Canada’s $2.49-billion military drone program, featuring fighter-jet-size drones.

The Department of National Defence is moving forward with plans to build a $53-million facility at CFB Comox as part of Canada’s $2.49-billion military drone program. Defence Construction Canada’s advance procurement notice for a facility to hold three combat-ready drones closes on Wednesday. The notice invites potential contractors to design and construct a 58,125-square-foot building with workshops, offices, maintenance bays and a communications centre at 19 Wing Comox, which will host Canada’s future western drone fleet. A formal design-build contract for the building is anticipated to come this fall.

When the military drone program was announced late last year, Defence Minister Bill Blair said the drones, known as the Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, will offer Canada’s military “nimble response options.”

“Canada must meet the growing demand for domestic assistance while preserving our ability to defend Canada, protect North America, and support our allies,” Blair said in a statement in December.

Canada is buying 11 MQ-9B drones from California-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., with some components from the United States government. Roughly the size of a fighter jet, the drones will be used to monitor Canada’s coastline, for NORAD and NATO missions, and for response to natural disasters such as forest fires and floods. Officials said the drones will only be armed when necessary for specific tasks.

Under the contract with General Atomics officials say the drone project has the potential to create “close to 700 jobs annually for Canadian industry and value chain partners,” and contribute $97 million a year to Canada’s gross domestic product over a nine-year period.

Other places that are receiving military drone infrastructure include CFB Greenwood in Nova Scotia and a ground control centre in Ottawa, as well as unspecified forward operating locations that will support missions in Northern Canada. Ottawa’s ground control centre — where aircraft cockpits for the drones will be housed — is expected to be the largest with 160 supporting personnel, while 19 Wing Comox will have 25 for drone operations. In Nova Scotia, 14 Wing Greenwood is expecting 55 supporting personnel. CFB Comox has been expanding its footprint in recent years.

Defence Construction Canada said that five apartments being built on base by the Canadian Forces Housing Agency should be completed this year, despite COVID-19 pandemic-related delays and price increases since the project began in 2020. A liquid-oxygen facility was built last year to support anticipated deployment of the CC-295 Kingfisher aircraft in search-and-rescue operations. A 66,800-square-foot simulator-equipped search-and-rescue training centre and hangar complex for the aircraft was built on the base in 2019, but the Kingfishers have yet to enter service due to design complexities and pandemic-related delays.

The Department of National Defence is aiming for five operational CC-295 Kingfishers out of 19 Wing Comox in 2025 or 2026. Canada’s first drones are to be delivered in 2028 and the program is to be in full operation by 2033.

(Source: Times Colonist, Michael John Lo with files from the Canadian Press. Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

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