Hopes of filling Canada's fixed-wing search and rescue (FWSAR) requirement to replace its aging de Havilland Canada CC-115 Buffalo fleet are driving would-be contractors to cement partnerships with local companies.
Canada's minister of public works, Rona Ambrose, who oversees defence procurement, says that her department has setup a new FWSAR secretariat to consult with industry on the project.
The creation of a new secretariat could be a sign that the moribund effort to replace the decrepit Buffalo is starting to gain momentum. Canada first signaled its intent to replace the antiquated twin-engined turboprop more than six years ago. The FWSAR programme will be a competitive procurement, Ambrose says. A "fairness monitor" will work to ensure the competition is open and fair, she adds. The contract, when it is awarded, will include training and support for at least 20 years.
The exact size and scope of the FWSAR tender is currently unknown, industry officials say. That is because the Canadian government has yet to finalize those requirements.
But Alenia Aermacchi, which hopes to bid its C-27J Spartan tactical transport, says that a draft request for proposal is expected in the fall of 2012. A contractor could be selected by 2014.
Alenia signed a letter of intent on 29 May to partner with General Dynamics Canada, Provincial Aerospace and DRS Canada on a potential FWSAR bid.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin, which plans to offer its C-130J, is partnering with local company Cascade Aerospace. The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding on 30 May at the CANSEC defence trade show in the Canadian capital Ottawa.
Jim Grant, Lockheed's air mobility vice president, says the C-130J is the ideal aircraft to conduct search and rescue (SAR) missions over Canada's rugged landscape. He points out that variants of the aircraft have been in service in Canada for decades and have already carrying out the SAR mission.
Other potential competitors include EADS CASA C-295, Viking DHC-5NG, Bombardier Q400, or even the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor.