Earlier this year simulation and training specialist CAE (Chalet 56) agreed to purchase Bombardier’s Military Aviation Training business, and with it the NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) school. NFTC operates from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, with the Beechcraft CT-156/T-6 Harvard II and from Cold Lake, Alberta, with the BAE Systems CT-155 Hawk.
As well as providing training for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), the school also trains students and instructors from other NATO nations and allies, including Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the UAE. More than 1,000 pilots have already graduated from the school.
CAE expects to complete the acquisition soon, and with it will come a new capability to add to the company’s extensive portfolio of training capabilities. NFTC represents the first large-scale live military training service to be offered by the company, which has embarked on a campaign to expand its base from its traditional marketplace of aviation simulators and ground-based training tools.
Adding live training capability for military aviation is seen as an important step as customers increasingly seek comprehensive and integrated training services that encompass everything from simple desk trainers, through sophisticated simulators, to advanced and fighter lead-in training aircraft.
Adding the NFTC and the experience it will bring positions CAE advantageously to bid for upcoming training service requirements, both around the world and closer to the company’s Canadian roots. In 2027, the RCAF is scheduled to implement Future Pilot Training (FPT), which is a common training system for all aircrew that combines the functions currently performed by NFTC (fast jet) and the Central Flying Training School (multi engine and rotary wing).
In addition to being well placed for this 20-year contract, CAE is also pursuing iFPT, an interim contract for fast-jet training that covers the gap between the end of the current NFTC contract in 2021 and the full implementation of FPT in 2027. In the meantime, the company is also pursuing additional virtual training opportunities at home, including support of the fixed-wing search and rescue (FWSAR) and future fighter procurement programs.
Recently, the RCAF issued its 2025 Simulation Strategy that sets out a vision of an integrated system of training centers that are connected by datalink to allow force-wide training. As the prime supplier of virtual training to the RCAF and a leader in the sector, CAE has been instrumental in working with the air force to draw up its strategy.
Under the vision the air force will have main training centers for fighters (Cold Lake), tactical aviation (Petawawa), electronics (North Bay), air mobility (Trenton), long-range patrol (Greenwood), maritime helicopters (Shearwater) and search and rescue (Comox). An optional center for UAVs at Bagotville is under consideration, and additional satellite centers are to be linked in at other RCAF bases.
At CAE’s training centers at places such as Trenton and Petawawa, multiple simulators are already linked on base, but the strategy takes virtual training one step further by bringing all national centers into a common synthetic environment, not only linked in real time but sharing a common database.
While implementation of such a system is some years away, the systems that CAE is currently installing have been designed with the strategy in mind, as well as bringing new capabilities. A good example is the CH-147F Chinook training system at Petawawa, which has just completed on-site acceptance at the beginning of a 20-year contract.
As well as a full-motion, full-mission simulator, the company has installed a tactical flight-training device (TFTD) that provides full-vision simulation based on Medallion-6000 imagery from a common database. This is partnered by a deployable TFTD that can be dispatched to operational theaters to hone combat skills and support mission rehearsal. CAE has also created an integrated gunnery trainer for door-gunners and loadmasters.
As it shifts to live training for the military and to greater connectivity across training systems, CAE is also expanding its offerings in the sea and land domains, based on its experience in aviation that sees the company train more than 120,000 pilots annually across both civil and military sectors.
“Once we competed only at the equipment level, but today the question is ‘can you run and design a good training system?’” said Mike Greenley, vice president and general manager for CAE Canada. “Now we’re in that place, it’s easier to move over to the navy, army and public safety sectors.”