Search and Rescue (SAR) is a critical component to Canada’s safety and security but existing fixed-wing (FW) SAR aircraft have long been in need of replacement. With a contract currently valued at $2.9B (including taxes), the Government of Canada is acquiring a fleet of 16 new fixed-wing search and rescue sensor-equipped aircraft – the CC-295 Kingfisher – but the operationalization has seen delays.
The initial operational capability of the Airbus CC-295 has recently been delayed from the summer of 2022 to the 2025-2026 timeframe.
Government project managers continue to work in close cooperation with Airbus to ensure that the challenges are addressed in a timely manner.
The delays are associated with design and development adjustments due to unforeseen technical issues, as well as the impacts of COVID-19, that have compounded the complexity of the project and the volume of remaining work. While the delay is unfortunate, DND says these types of issues are not unusual given the complexity of the capability being developed.
It is crucial that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) maintain a SAR capability across Canada, which is why an approach has been implemented to maintain SAR coverage using existing fleets until the new CC-295 capability is operational.
The retirement of the CC-115 Buffalo means an interim solution to fixed-wing SAR coverage is required. To ensure ongoing coverage, the CAF will continue to rely on the existing CC-130 Hercules aircraft until the CC-295 is able to assume SAR operations.
- Interim Fixed-wing search and rescue coverage in Search and Rescue Region Victoria is being provided by 435 Squadron operating CC-130H Hercules aircraft out of Winnipeg. Beginning at the end of May 2022, two CC-130H Hercules will deploy to Comox, BC, to be operated directly from there. The interim coverage plan will remain flexible and can be adjusted as required.
- Search and Rescue Region Victoria will have ongoing support from the CH-149 Cormorant helicopter - a highly-capable SAR aircraft based at 442 Squadron in Comox. For fixed-wing support for missions at sea, in addition to the CC-130, Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Victoria may also call upon the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 407 Squadron CP-140 Auroras and U.S. Coast Guard fixed-wing aircraft to support a Cormorant if needed.
A DND press release said: "We are taking appropriate action to ensure this vital service will continue to be available for those in need, while also taking the time necessary to procure the right aircraft for Canada – not only to deliver the required platforms and capacity to our CAF members, but also to ensure that those capabilities satisfy our operational requirements."
Canada’s modern new CC-295 fleet will allow the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to conduct more effective search and rescue missions in all weather conditions, including in reduced visibility, and at long range.
The CC-295 Kingfisher will operate from 19 Wing Comox; 8 Wing Trenton, ON; 14 Wing Greenwood, NS; and 17 Wing Winnipeg, MB. These are the same locations currently providing search and rescue services across the country.
As part of the contract, in addition to providing 16 new aircraft, Airbus has constructed a new simulator-equipped training centre in Comox, BC to provide training, maintenance and support services for the delivered CC-295 aircraft.