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C-295 vs C-27J: another round? New SAR planes for Canada

December 17, 2008
CC 115 SAR

CC 115 SAR

Sources: Toronto Star | DID

Published: Dec 13, 2008 04:30AM
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA–The federal cabinet will be asked early in the new year to give its blessing to spend $3 billion to replace Canada’s geriatric fleet of search-and-rescue planes.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said a proposal to replace the CC-115 Buffalos, which are more than 40 years old, is on his desk and ready to be presented.

“I hope to move very early in the new year toward procurement,” he said in an interview yesterday.

The pitch to cabinet comes at a time of economic crisis, with a collapsing auto sector, a recession and a looming federal deficit.

Regardless, MacKay said he believes he can make the case.

“It’s a critical component of Canada’s home guard (and) we need to have these aircraft,” he said.

The twin-engine Buffalos, which were ordered replaced five years ago by the Paul Martin Liberal government, have become increasingly difficult to maintain because the manufacturer stopped production of the aircraft in 1986.

At one point, air staff planners were looking to buy retired Brazilian air force CC-115s to cannibalize them for parts.

This year, plans were set in place to keep the six Buffalos in the air until 2015, but the head of the air force said he’s confident it won’t take that long to get replacements.

“Earlier is always better with old airplanes,” said Lt.-Gen. Angus Watt.

He insisted, however, that the Buffalos are safe and will continue with their duties, including operations along the West Coast where their slow speed makes them ideal for searching mountain ranges.

The purchase of 15 new aircraft is expected to run around $1.5 billion with an additional $1.5 billion tacked on for a 20-year service contract, defence officials said.

The price tag is $200 million higher than when the project was conceived under the Liberals in late 2003.

MacKay defended the five-year delay, saying the Defence Department wanted to get the procurement right.

For more specific details about this program, DID has a complete article with full details of two clasic contenders, and a new one…

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