Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) expects to begin the selection process for a new fleet of fixed-wing search-and-rescue (SAR) aircraft in the second half of this year, with a contract expected in late 2006 or early 2007, writes Andrzej Jeziorski.

“We are in the final stages of preparing and reviewing the statement of operational requirements,” the DND says. Deliveries will begin before the retirement of its de Havilland Canada CC-115 Buffalo transports in 2010, it adds.

A request for proposals for the C$1.3 billion ($1 billion) programme was twice delayed, in June and October 2004, say sources close to the programme. The delays were caused by a tangle of political interests and pressure from some quarters in the procurement chain to award a contract to an Alenia Aeronautica/L-3 Integrated Systems team proposing the C-27J Spartan without holding a competition, says one source.

The DND says it has examined the C-27J and EADS Casa’s C-295, but has yet to determine the number of aircraft required, suggested by industry sources to be around 15. EADS Casa took a C-295 on a tour of Canada from 26 May to 8 June, but was blocked from showing the aircraft to air force officials because of the imminent start of the SAR procurement, says Martin Sefzig, director of programmes for EADS Casa Canada.

The tour included all three of Canada’s northern provinces, as the DND wants to locate some of its new aircraft at two bases in the north, requiring good cold-weather performance. Canada operates six CC-115s from CFB Comox in British Columbia and also uses some of its 32 Lockheed Martin CC-130 transports in the SAR role.

Source: Flight International