Australia’s first Bombardier Challenger CL-604 search and rescue (SAR) aircraft has officially entered service.

“This capability is vital in Australia’s search and rescue response arrangements, in a vast area of about one tenth of the earth’s surface,” says Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) acting chief Gary Prosser.

“These new aircraft will use new technology and equipment to ensure there is a rapid response capability to rescue people in distress at sea or on land.”

The CL-604 SAR capability will provided by Cobham SAR Services, which won a A$640 million ($471 million) contract in 2014 to provide the aircraft and crew for the mission. The contract will from 2016 to 2018.

The first jet is based in Cairns, while the next two will be in Perth and Melbourne. The fourth aircraft, which will serve in an ancillary mode, will also be based in Melbourne.

Cobham made several modifications to the aircraft, allowing them to carry emergency stores such as survival equipment and satellite phones that can be delivered to people in distress. Other features include infra-red cameras for searching at night, and other sensors.

The CL-604 is powered by two General Electric CF34 turbofans.