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CASR — Canadian American Strategic Review
Future New Fixed-Wing Search & Rescue – FWSAR Project – Nov 2012/Mar 2015
Canadian Fixed-Wing Search & Rescue Project: Current Candidates
Include the C-27J , C295 ,
DHC-5NG , C-130J , KC-390 , and V-22
Update 31 March 2015: The FWSAR Secretariat has published yet another RFP (Request for Proposals) notice. Details are available to industry only, citizens
need not worry their heads.
Back on 16 Feb 2015, David Pugliese reported that FWSAR candidates had been reduced to the predictable three. When the FWSAR Request for Proposals is released later in 2015, only Airbus Military
(with the C295), Alenia Aermacchi (C-27J), and Lockheed Martin (C-130J) are expected to respond. Other potential competitors for FWSAR have lost interest or patience.
Tracking the progress (or lack thereof) of DND's Fixed-Wing
Search and Rescue Project has always been difficult. Government priorities shift and change accounting for
some of the on again/off again nature of FWSAR. But the Department and Air Force have also cloaked the
FWSAR Project in their usual blanket of secrecy – to the point that the decade-old FWSAR Statement of
Operational Requirements (or its half dozen successor documents) were never released to the public, whilst
internal DND audits of FWSAR are released heavily redacted.
Rather than sport with CASR readers' intelligence through
continued attempts to track the Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Project, we'll present a FWSAR Project timeline (which will be updated as
details emerge) and, here, review the current crop of candidate aircraft types.
An Outside Review of DND's SOR for FWSAR by the National Research Council (NRC)
Two changes came out of the National Research Council's review of the FWSAR Project's Statement
of Operational (or Operating ) Requirements. A revised SOR resulted, following instruction from
government. These were: to consider 'Alternative Service Delivery', and to allow proposals for the FWSAR which
included more than one aircraft type. The possibility of contractor-provided ASD was rejected by DND (not
surprisingly considering that Peter MacKay is both MND and Lead Minister for the
National Search and Rescue Secretariat ).
The change allowing more than one aircraft type is having a more profound effect on current candidates for the
FWSAR Project. That means that an aircraft type which might be seen as uneconomical for FWSAR operations in
British Columbia (or simply too large to manoeuvre within the confines of BC's Coast Mountains) may still
be in the running for the other SAR Regions. Candidates benefiting from this type split might include larger
aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin C-130J SAR variant and the as-yet-unbuilt Embraer KC-390
The two type split also benefits candidates better suited for the British Columbia operating environment. This
might include slower, shorter range aircraft such as the proposed Viking DHC-5NG Buffalo and Bell-Boeing's
V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor VTOL. Such types also benefited from a relaxation of the requirement that all
FWSAR candidates fly out of existing FWSAR Main Operating Bases in the south. Proposals can now suggest
options for FWSAR basing (including temporary operating locations) assuming they "account for all associated
Statement of Operational Requirements Changes: Who wins, Who Loses, Who Benefits?
The changes to the FWSAR Project SOR discussed above work to the detriment of one of the original FWSAR
Project candidates and to the benefit of the other. Alenia's C-27J was to be a jack-of-all-trades. Capable of
quick transit to the north ( Strategic Direction 5 for the National SAR Secretariat) while being more
economical than existing FWSAR Hercules, the C-27J Spartan was also seen as small enough to be a
compromise for SAR operations in BC. But, with a two-type competition, Alenia is put in a more difficult position. The Italians must now press for a single aircraft type, arguing the
economic benefits of one type commonality.
Airbus Military mush also argue the single-type benefits of its C295. But the Airbus Military candidate does
benefit from the possibility of alternative basing for a future FWSAR aircraft. Indeed, the original suggestion for
forward basing came from the C295 team back in 2005.  Northern bases for FWSAR aircraft gets
around the requirement for fast transit to the Arctic.
Below are the aircraft types announced as being put forward for the FWSAR Project at the time of writing. None of
these aircraft have been officially submitted yet (although several of these types will be familiar to
readers from previous incarnations of the FWSAR Project. We have listed these potential FWSAR Project candidate
types in roughly the same order that the aircraft were put forward by their manufacturers as possible FWSAR
Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartan
From the outset, the Alenia C-27J Spartan has been the Air Force's favoured candidate for FWSAR. It has
been alleged, repeatedly, that the FWSAR requirements were written specifically around this aircraft type. If
so, then little wonder that the C-27J met key DND's performance requirements such as: high transit speeds between
SAR Main Operating Bases in the south and the Arctic; and the ability to carry a complete spare propeller
in its hold to aid in the recovery of grounded FWSAR aircraft in a remote location.
Critics of the C-27J as a choice for future FWSAR note that, while the Spartan is faster than many of
its propeller-driven competitors, it struggles to remain airborne at the lower speeds needed while performing
aerial searches. And, of course, the majority of aerial SAR missions are performed over the more highly populated
south of the country in any case. But, when a FWSAR mission is required in the harsher Arctic environment,
timely responses are critical. The C-27J would be able to reach the Arctic more quickly but the Spartan's
relatively heavy footprint restricts the number of northern airfields that can easily accommodate this
An inability to operate from softer airfields also limits the Spartan in its secondary FWSAR role as a
tactical transport aircraft. The C-27J can readily carry the palletized cargo loads DND demands. But, if
the aircraft cannot land on High Arctic airfields, its utility in the resupply role is greatly diminished. The
other great selling point for the C-27J was its considerable commonality with the Lockheed Martin CC-130J transport.
Cooperation between Alenia and LM has been replaced by competition but the benefits of commonality between
Alenia announced in Sept 2012 that FWSAR C-27Js would be 'missionized' in Canada. That gives the Spartan its
first injection of Canadian Content. The C-27J has US cockpit systems, British engines and propellers, and an
Italian airframe. The latter is a problem for the Harper Government. In the first instance, it is awkward that
the Italians do not employ the Spartans for SAR duties.
An even bigger issue is Canada's on-going trade deficit
with Italy (with 72% of its value in Italian manufactured goods imported into Canada ). That trade
imbalance has been growing for decades but the last figure from Parliament put the trade deficit at
Team Spartan consists of Finmeccanica SpA subsidiary Alenia Aermacchi North America teamed with
General Dynamics Canada, DRS Technologies Canada (a division of US-based DRS, itself another Finmeccanica
subsidiary), and Provincial Aerospace of St. John's NL. Alenia Aermacchi has also signed an
agreement with its USAF Joint Cargo Aircraft partner, L-3
Communications – on the off chance Canada goes the US Foreign Military Sales
Another FWSAR Project contender almost from the outset was the Spanish C295. Like the C-27J, the C295 is a
tactical transport but one designed to also appeal to civilian markets.  The manufacturer's name and the style
of the aircraft's designation has shifted slightly over the ten years that the FWSAR Project has been running. The
C295's Spanish maker, CASA, became part of the EADS group back in 1999 but was absorbed by Airbus Military in
Airbus Military (EADS CASA) C295
By comparison with the C-27J, the C295 has a slightly smaller airframe and is much lighter. The trade-off is in
cabin height and total payload. But, being lighter, the C295 can land on those soft fields that the C-27J
has trouble with. However, the C295's landing run is longer and, once down, the C295 has a much longer take-off
run than the Italian plane.  Its critics also note that the C-27J is much faster than a C295 but the
latter is better at slow-flying searches.
Beyond speed requirements, the C295 cargo hold cannot carry a fully-assembled propeller. Bizarre as this
requirement may seem, this was an early stumbling block for the CASA C295.
Although C295 airframes would be built in Europe, the Spanish aircraft does have major 'Canadian Content' in
the form of its twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127G turboprops. These engines are related to the
in-service PW120s that power CT-142 'Gonzo' navigation trainers. However, beyond those PW127G
turboprops engines, there is little direct 'Can Con'. Airbus Military will be relying on Industrial Regional
Canadian Team promoting the C295 consists of: Airbus Military and its Canadian partners, CAE (providing
flight simulators and training), and Discovery Air (for In-Service Support ).
Viking DHC-5NG Next Generation Buffalo
Viking Air's 2008 FWSAR proposal included the
upgrading of existing CC-115 Buffalos in order to
extend their useful service life and the production of new
DHC-5NG aircraft. These 'Next Generation' Buffalos would have 'glass' cockpits akin to those
in Viking's new-production Series 400
Critics of the proposal note that the 'legacy' Buffalo is very slow compared to other potential FWSAR
candidates, its cabin isn't pressurized, and the proposed DHC-5NG variant does not yet exist. There is a flip side to
those arguments. While fast transit speed may be demanded by the SOR, FWSAR aircraft must also fly search patterns at slow speeds. Since the DHC-5 is a genuine STOL aircraft (unlike most of its
FWSAR Project rivals), the 'Buff' can fly slower without stalling. And there are downsides to pressurizing aircraft. An unpressurized airframe can have a longer lifespan, as
amply demonstrated by the 'time' still remaining on in-service CC-115s. It is true that the proposed
DHC-5NG variant remains unbuilt. Still, the DHC-5 type is hardly unproven and DHC-5NG prototyping would be a matter of
modest conversions. 
Viking's strong suit, of course, is its Canadian Content. This BC firm proposes the new production of a classic
Canadian aircraft design but re-engined with a modern Canadian powerplant. These engines are the
made-in- Montreal Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150 turboprops that powers the widespread Bombardier Q400
No 'Team Viking' has been announced thus far. It is likely safe to assume that Viking Air Ltd would be
joined by Field Aviation (which provided the design and prototyping of BALE, the Buffalo Avionics Life
Extension as well as being a major supplier of CC-115 spares). Another possibility would be Kelowna Flightcraft
(which completed the BALE installations as well as providing CC-115 maintenance support services). Obviously, PWC would
Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules
Although rumours that Lockheed Martin would enter its 'Super Hercules' as a FWSAR candidate have
swirled for some time. Just prior to FWSAR being halted once more in 2010, Lockheed Martin itself was showing
interest. The Jan 2012 re-start of the FWSAR Project firmed up interest at LM. Now it's official, LM will enter
the C-130J into the contest. But the question is: which sub-type? A good match already exists in the USAF
The USAF HC-130J is not an exact match to FWSAR. As the USAF HC-130J's Combat King II name suggests,
this aircraft has been tailored for combat search-and-rescue. That is not a current CF capability. But maybe it
should be. In addition to a secondary transport role, were the HC-130J chosen as a future FWSAR aircraft,
the CF could add new combat SAR duties.
There is another HC-130J, that of the US Coast Guard. In this case, SAR is not a primary role (the USCG's HC-130J
is considered a 'Long Range Surveillance Aircraft' ). Still, the USCG does perform FWSAR with their version of the
HC-130J. The advantage of both Hercules variants is the total commonality with the CF's longer-bodied
CC-130Js now entering service as transports. Indeed, being short- bodied, FWSAR HC-130Js would have advantages over
their longer kin in some transport roles. A short Hercules can also land places a C-27J can't.
In May 2012, Lockheed Martin partnered with Abbotsford-based Cascade Aerospace for the FWSAR Project, a
natural pairing since LM already signed a MoU with Cascade for CC-130J heavy maintenance. Now
all that remains is to see which Herc type is proposed for FWSAR.
Embraer Defesa e Segurança KC-390 – The Long-Shot, Brazilian Medium-Lift Airlifter
A surprise announcement was the entry of an unbuilt Brazilian twin-jet tactical transport for FWSAR. Promoted
as a future C-130 Hercules replacement, the Embraer KC-390 design was tailored to Brazilian Air Force
needs (but with an eye on potential future exports as well). As the 'KC' designation suggests, inflight refuelling
is a secondary role but no mention of SAR.
At present, the KC-390 remains in the wind tunnel testing stage. The first jet transport is not scheduled to fly
until 2014 with no service entry in Brazil until 2016. Even if Canada was first on the list for exports, that makes
a planned 2017 FWSAR Initial Operational Capability very tight. Unfortunately, that probably relegates this
intriguing aircraft to an 'also-ran' category.
The KC-390 medium-lift transport is a lot more aircraft than DND was looking for in a new FWSAR platform. Such an
aircraft has fascinating possibilities. If a fast transit to the Arctic is required, it's hard to imagine a
better-suited aircraft. Alas, new CC-130Js won't need replacing for decades. And that is a pity. The
KC-390 would be an excellent medium transport for the CF. But timing is as important as capabilities.
Beyond musing on imaginary increases in future CF transport capabilities, the KC-390 faces major challenges
as a FWSAR Project contender, including: operating costs, its slow-flying ability, and a near complete lack
of any Canadian Content (although it is not unique in that).
Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey – a Fixed-Wing ( but Tilt-Rotor )
Search and Rescue Aircraft
The V-22 Osprey is yet another aircraft type long rumoured for the FWSAR contest but only recently
declared. The Aug 2011 announcement that Canada was willing to consider a mixed- type fleet, opened the door for
this Bell-Boeing tilt-rotor vertical take-off and landing aircraft. By Oct 2011, Boeing had unofficially
offered the V-22 Osprey VTOL for the FWSAR Project.
VTOL aircraft are not completely new to the CF. Prototypes of Canadair's experimental 'tilt-wing' CL-84
flew in CF markings in the early 1970s (as the CX-131 Dynavert, right ). But, when the US lost
interest in the CL-84 program, Canada was unprepared to 'go it alone'. The CL-84 survivors ended up in
museums and Canadair's pioneering VTOL work faded other than as V-22 footnotes.
Considering the Canadian Forces' risk-averse approach to home-grown VTOL technology, it would be highly ironic if
a later US approach were to come into CF service. Still, such ironies are not unique and the CF is not alone
among Western militaries in being contemptuous of domestic products. But none of that detracts from the V-22
Osprey's potential or capabilities.
After a rocky start, the tilt-rotor  Osprey appears to have gotten past its technological hurdles. The
program has also suffered from cost-overruns that will make individual airframe costs quite high. And, while an
Osprey airframe is actually smaller than its FWSAR competitors, the smaller V-22 cabin affects only the
secondary cargo-carrying role. Of course, the V-22 can do something that no other candidate for the FWSAR can.
After a successful search, Osprey could hover for rescue and recovery.
Who's missing from this Round of the Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Project Bake-Off?
Over the decade, many aircraft types have been put forward in the past as possible FWSAR Project candidates.
Canadian contenders rejected by DND include two Bombardier designs. One was a special missions variant of the
Bombardier 415 water bomber. Canada operated a flying boat in the FWSAR prior to the Buffalo but,
apparently, water flying is a skill set that our Air Force has no interest in renewing.  And, of course,
amphibians have no rear ramp.
That lack of a rear ramp was also the kicker for the other Bombardier offering – the Q Series.
At one point, a union rep suggested that the Q200 used by many foreign countries as patrol aircraft would meet
the FWSAR Project requirement. The aircraft is certainly faster than most propeller-driven FWSAR candidates
and able to land on softer airfields. But Bombardier was pushing its larger, more powerful Q400 variant (see Jim Dorschner's 'FWSAR Plus' concept ).
In the last round of FWSAR Secretariat 'Industry Days', Bombardier didn't show up. And it's understandable. Their
patrol Q200s, Q300s, and Q400s serve around the globe ( 'missionized' by potential Canadian contributors to the
FWSAR Project – Provincial Aerospace and Field Aviation). But the NRC review of the FWSAR Project SOR backed
DND's insistance on rear ramps. With ramps a mandatory requirement, Bombardier had no choice but to cut its losses.
So, industry (whether in or out) has its ducks in a row. Now industry (and citizenry) wait for DND to announce
what it actually wants out of the FWSAR Project. FWSAR Secretariat, in the meantime, has stated it "will
start sharing elements from the Draft Request for Proposal" in the summer of 2013. Perhaps, by
government work standards, that qualifies as progress?
The actual Request for Proposals document is now anticipated in "early 2014". A result of a little flurry of procurement announcements made by the Harper Government on 20 Dec 2013 (when in
doubt, politicians like to make announcements just before a holiday break). The 20 Dec 2013 announcement was for issuing a Letter of Interest request for FWSAR – potential
suppliers being given until 24 Jan 2014 to provide a 'Statement of Capabilities' for FWSAR. In August 2013, Spring 2014 was the anticipated date for a FWSAR Project contract award. That
isn't going to happen but, then again, delays are nothing new for the FWSAR Project.
 EADS' Martin Sefzig recommended Yellowknife, Iqaluit and St. John's bases in April 2005.
 An exception is the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey. While the V-22 was presented as a potential FWSAR
candidate before the Brazilian KC-390 jet airlifter, we placed the vertical take-off and landing V-22 Osprey
last for the unique operating mode of this tilt-rotor transport aircraft.
 The last figure was for FY2009. The Canada-Italy trade deficit hit a high of $3.04B in 2006.
 The C295 has its origin in the Airtech CN235 which was a co-development of CASA and IPT Nusantara of Indonesia (the latter of which desired a military and civil transport in
 Prototyping could be incremental or involve more than one airframe to further reduce risk. Eg: One 'legasy' Buffalo could be re-engined with PW150s, another fitted with a new
 Technology wonks argue endlessly over the relative merits of tilt-rotor versus tilt-wing. Both approaches have their advantages (tilting avoids placing upper wing surfaces in rotor
downwash, tilt-rotors are said to be mechanically simpler). Regardless, it's tilt-rotor on offer.
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