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Thu, May 31, 2012

Canada Replacing Aging SAR Fleet

Several Contenders For Long-Delayed Contract

Canada’s government is moving ahead with plans for a $3.8 billion purchase of new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft to replace older types. Following cabinet approval late last year, the government has set a new schedule that will issue a draft request for proposal in September, with final selection of the winning bidder or bidders expected in 2014. Treasury Board has granted first-phase approval of a budget of $3.8-billion, with $1.9-billion of that going to so-called 'in-service support' or maintenance.

The government now intends to hold an open competition, modeled on last fall's successful shipbuilding contract process. The likely front-running contenders are the Italy-based Alenia's C-27J, Airbus Military's C-295 and Lockheed-Martin's updated C-130J Transport. Viking Air's DHC-5 Buffalo and Bombardier's Q400 turboprop also have been mentioned as possible candidates.

The Postmedia News reports that the new bidding competition is to be run at arms'-length by bureaucrats, as was the much-lauded shipbuilding contract awards process. In contrast with previous go-rounds on the SAR contract, this one is intended to be performance-based. The government will state its needs, leaving it up to industry to offer a solution. In theory, any aircraft maker or combination of aircraft makers could win part or the entire contract.

There are two main contenders: Alenia's C-27J, and Airbus's C-295. Both are twin-engine craft designed for search-and-rescue and air-ambulance duties. Lockheed-Martin is expected to pitch its C-130J as an alternative, based on the argument that, though more expensive than the other two on a per-unit basis, it will be less costly to maintain because the RCAF already maintains a C-130J fleet. (File images top, C-27J, bottom C-295)



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