Following years of planning, the first new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft officially found its home at 19 Wing Comox Friday.
The new fleet – called the Kingfisher – will have 16 CC-295 aircraft in total, with delivery set to Comox, Trenton, Greenwood, and Winnipeg by the end of 2022.
Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan, who was in Comox for the official arrival of the first aircraft, said Comox should receive two more prior to the end of the year.
“After consultation with our people and the public, the name Kingfisher … emerged as the most fitting name for the CC-295. Within the First Nations of the Northwest, the kingfisher has long been recognized for its speed and agility, as well as its keen searching and hunting skills. Found all across Canada, the Kingfisher well represents the abilities of our own search and rescue crews to accomplish their lifesaving role.”
Currently, there are two types of SAR planes being used: the CC-115 Buffalo and CC-130 Hercules.
The CC-295 is equipped with integrated sensors that will allow crews to locate persons or objects from more than 40 kilometers away, even in low-light conditions. Its communications systems will increase interoperability with other search and rescue assets, such as the CH-149 Cormorant.
The fleet of 16 aircraft will be replacing the Buffalo and Hercules fleets in their search and rescue role at four locations across Canada (Comox, Trenton, Greenwood and Winnipeg), and represents a value of $2.4 billion.
Sajjan explained during the transition period, fixed-wing search and rescue services will continue through existing fleets, along with the Cormorant and Griffon helicopters.
In late 2016, the government announced that 19 Wing Comox was chosen as the location for the training centre for the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Replacement Project. At the time, the announcement was part of awarding the nearly $3 billion FWSAR contract to Airbus Defence & Space for the C-295 turboprop transport plane.
The training centre is built by CAE, which includes 10 classrooms, as well as a full-flight simulator, a cockpit procedures trainer, a sensor station simulator and an aircraft maintenance trainer.
The new aircraft will remain at 19 Wing Comox while the RCAF completes aircrew training, followed by operational testing.