Canada unveils military's new search and rescue planes on Vancouver Island
The first of Canada's 16 new CC-295 fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft was unveiled in Comox Friday. (Royal Canadian Air Force)
COMOX -- The Canadian military has taken possession of the first of 16 new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft. The first Spanish-built Airbus CC-295s appeared at the Canadian Forces Base Comox on Friday morning for a special unveiling ceremony.
The new fleet of search and rescue aircraft was purchased by Canada at a cost of $2.4 billion. The purchase includes both the planes and 11 years of in-service support. An additional $2.3 billion has been earmarked to extend that support for an additional 15 years.
The aircraft were purchased to replace the current fleet of Buffalo and Hercules planes that the military currently uses for search and rescue operations.
"This will fundamentally change the whole nature of search and rescue," said Royal Canadian Air Force Commander Lieutenant-General Alexander Meinzinger at CFB Comox Friday.
"The search part of the mission will be significantly curtailed by the nature of the capacity that we now have, and then we'll be focussed on what matters most, executing the rescue," Meinzinger said.
Amongst the aircraft's powerful new abilities includes equipment that can locate persons or objects from more than 40 kilometers away. Many of the roles carried out by human eyes will now be enhanced using technology.
"Its powerful sensors will help you locate people and objects beyond the line of sight," said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. "Its state-of-the-art communications system will allow you to share real-time information with partners on the ground."
Five of the aircraft will be stationed at 19 Wing Comox while the others will be deployed at three other bases across the country.
They are being called "Kingfishers," named after birds that have been long-recognized for speed, agility and keen searching and hunting abilities.
Sajjan says the purchase of the aircraft will also greatly boost Canada's economy.
"The fixed-wing search and rescue project alone is injecting $2.4 billion in our economy and will support at least 300 highly-skilled jobs through its training program alone," he said.
The aircraft replacement plan also calls for the creation of a new search and rescue training facility at the Comox base. Work on the new training building is largely complete.
The first of the aircraft are expected to be in regular service beginning in the summer of 2022.