The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) will not have new search and rescue (SAR) planes for at least another three years, according to an announcement made by the Department of National Defence (DND) this month.
According to DND, extended timelines associated with the design and development of the capability, along with other factors such as unforeseen technical issues along with impacts of COVID-19, have resulted in the delay of the CC-295 Kingfisher aircraft’s delivery this summer, 2022 until 2025-2026.
In addition, the unforeseen issues and extended timelines have “compounded the complexity of the project and the volume of remaining work.”
“While the delay is unfortunate, these types of issues are not unusual given the complexity of the capability being developed,” stated the DND press release.
Using Existing Fleets
So that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) can maintain its SAR capacity across the country, the military has decided to cover the current need using existing fleets.
“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,” read DND’s press release.
With the retirement of the CC-115 Buffalo and an extended timeline to achieve an initial operating capability (IOC) for the CC-295 Kingfisher means, an interim solution to fixed-wing SAR coverage is required.
This means the CAF will continue to rely on existing CC-130 Hercules aircraft. Fixed-wing search and rescue coverage in Search and Rescue Region Victoria is being provided by the CC-130H Hercules from 435 Squadron in Winnipeg. Interim SAR coverage in Search and Rescue Region Victoria is currently being provided by 435 Squadron operating CC-130H Hercules aircraft out of Winnipeg.
At the end of May, two CC-130H Hercules will deploy to Comox, B.C., to be operated directly from there.
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, according to DND.
About the Kingfisher
The contract to build the CC-295 Kingfisher is currently valued at $2.9B. The CC-295s, once acquired, will be a fleet of 16 new fixed-wing search and rescue sensor-equipped aircrafts. The aircraft is being designed by Airbus and are expected to conduct more effective search and rescue missions in weather conditions.
Airbus has constructed a new simulator-equipped training centre in Comox, B.C., and will provide training, maintenance, and support services for the delivered aircraft.
The Kingfisher will operate from 19 Wing Comox, 8 Wing Trenton, 14 Wing Greenwood, and 17 Wing Winnipeg.