Canada appears to have kicked off the long-delayed program to replace its venerable CC-115 Buffalo search-and-rescue aircraft. The Department of National Defence held an industry day on July 14 in Ottawa, but industry left the packed (and reportedly chaotic) event not knowing what the DND wants, how many, or when. The Ottawa Citizen's David Pugliese ably captures the confusion in his Defence Watch blog.
CC-115 Buffalo (Photo: Canadian Forces)
According to one source, the DND did a show and tell, bringing in one of its CC-130s to demonstrate the bulky equipment its SAR aircraft and SAR technicians have to carry. The DND did not provide information on requirements, numbers, schedule or budget for its Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) program, but it did give industry 60 days to propose their ideas on how to meet Canada's SAR needs. The question being asked is: were they ducking the issues or being open to new ideas?
According to the source, DND did say it wants one platform type for a fleet that can cover all of Canada from its existing SAR bases, which favors higher speed and range; it wants good cockpit visibility; and it wants a dedicated FWSAR fleet, not mission pallets for its new C-130J airlifters. While it didn't provide a schedule, the DND said it can't extend the Buffalo's life beyond 2015 and expects a 60-month program from contract award to final delivery.
Buffalo NG (Photo: Viking Air)
The expected bidders are Airbus Military with the C-295, Alenia Aeronautica with the C-27J, Bombardier with a derivative of the Dash 8 Q400 regional turboprop, and Viking Air with a new-production, next-generation Buffalo NG (re-engined with the Q400's PW150s). The C-27J has long been seen as the favorite, but DND is under pressure from Canadian industry to conduct a more open competition than for its most recent procurements of C-17s, C-130Js and CH-47Fs.