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Embraer mulls Canada SAR bid with KC-390

An initial two firms – Alenia Aermacchi and Airbus Defence & Space – have confirmed their participation in Canada’s nascent fixed-wing search and rescue (FWSAR) contest, and could soon be joined by Brazil’s Embraer, after it indicated that was giving serious consideration to bidding.

Ottawa published a request for proposals in late March for the contest, which seeks to procure replacements for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s aged fleets of six de Havilland Canada CC-115 Buffalos and 13 Lockheed Martin CC-130H Hercules.

So far, Alenia and Airbus have indicated their intention to bid, offering the C-27J and C295, respectively. Lockheed is also likely to offer the HC-130J, a variant of the current-generation Hercules already operated by Canada for tactical transport missions.

But Embraer is also contemplating pitching its developmental jet-powered KC-390. “We have received [the RFP] and we are analysing very seriously [whether] to be part of the process,” says Jackson Schneider, chief executive of Embraer Defence and Security. “We will have a very attractive offer.”

Canada’s Viking Air – which produces modernised versions of the de Havilland Canada line – may also offer its DHC-5 Buffalo for the requirement, but is yet to confirm its participation.

Ruling itself out, however, is Bell-Boeing, which would have pitched the V-22 tiltrotor for the contest. It says the RFP’s criteria “remain focused on prescriptive aircraft specifications rather than capability-based requirements”.

Both Alenia – which is bidding as Team Spartan – and Airbus have promised considerable Canadian industrial participation in their offers.

Team Spartan includes General Dynamics Canada, DRS Technologies Canada, KF Aerospace as maintenance, repair and overhaul provider, and Esterline-CMC Electronics.

Airbus, meanwhile, has picked Newfoundland-headquartered Provincial Aerospace as mission systems integrator, alongside training and simulation provider CAE. Additionally, the C295 is powered by twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127G engines.

Lockheed has a long-standing relationship with Abbotsford, British Columbia-based Cascade Aerospace, which has one of only two C-130J heavy maintenance centres worldwide.

Both the C295 and HC-130 are well-proven in the SAR role. The C-27J, meanwhile, in January began its integration into the US Coast Guard’s inventory. So far, two of 14 examples are in operation.

Canada’s FWSAR programme has been running for around 11 years. The CC-115 fleet now has an average age of 48 years, records Flightglobal’s Ascend Fleets database.

Submissions are due by 28 September with a decision anticipated in the first half of 2016.

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