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Jun 20

A couple of Canadian progressives have already made their own selections–despite at the same time calling for a “transparent competition”.

1) The, er, judicious spin on their report in a Rideau Institute (note who they are, mostly hard-core, anti-defence leftists) media release:

Consider Made-In-Canada Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft, Report Urges

A new report [see at end of 2)], released by the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives [also quite left], calls on the government to replace the Canadian Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) fleet in a timely and objective manner, and proposes that a number of made-in-Canada aircraft be considered to fulfill Canada’s search and rescue requirements, especially on the West Coast…

• The Canadian government should conduct a transparent competition that will provide the Canadian Forces with effective FWSAR aircraft at the best value to Canadians in terms of cost, performance, and jobs.

Most importantly, the authors want to see a clear and open process for acquiring the aircraft [which they have already chosen, see below]…

2) What the authors’ really think, under their own names:

For Search and Rescue, Canadian-made Planes are Better, Cheaper

Why did feds deny our own plane makers a chance to compete for contract?

By Michael Byers and Stewart Webb, Yesterday [March 19], TheTyee.ca

Last month, the Treasury Board granted “first-phase approval” of $3.8-billion for new search-and-rescue planes. A “Statement of Operational Requirements [SOR]” will be drafted this summer, with the final selection of aircraft taking place in 2014 [for a project that was a “major priority” in 2004!!!].

Drafting the Statement of Operational Requirements is the key phase of any defence procurement. In 2009, the Department of National Defence proposed to sole-source the Italian-made C-27J Spartan for fixed-wing search-and-rescue. Industry Canada rejected the proposal because the requirements had been narrowly drawn so as to exclude all but one aircraft from consideration. Several tried and tested Canadian products — new [hardly “tried and tested!] or refurbished Buffalos produced by Viking Air in Victoria and Calgary, and Q-400s produced by Bombardier in Toronto — were ruled out peremptorily.

A fair Statement of Operational Requirements would allow the Canadian-made planes to compete head-to-head with foreign products [ooh, those horrible things “foreign”–how progressive].

Home grown wings

The Buffalo is the perfect aircraft for the rough coastlines and mountainous terrain of Canada’s West Coast…

A different aircraft is needed in the rest of Canada…

The Q400, with its high cruising speed of 367 knots, is well suited for the job…

Search-and-rescue aircraft are not required to double as cargo planes, and therefore do not need ramps for this purpose. The Royal Canadian Air Force is already well equipped with transport planes, including four new C-17 Globemasters and 17 new C-130J Hercules.

…the Canadian-made planes are a bargain, which is no small matter in a time of constrained budgets. New Buffalos would cost between $18-20 million, while Q400s cost $30 million. Last but not least, made-in-Canada planes create made-in-Canada jobs.  [Tyee]

Michael Byers holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia [his blog here, he’s a defeated federal NDP candidate]. Stewart Webb is a research associate of the Salt Spring Forum [more here]. They are co-authors of “Search and Replace: The Case for a Made-in-Canada Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue fleet”

Those two have clearly made up their minds so why do they want a real competition?

As for the RCAF being “well equipped” with transports, they now have 17 C-130Js–but the “CC-130 fleet totaled 32 aircraft in 2006″. The H-models then served as the main tactical transport; the older E-models had SAR as their main role with transport as a secondary one. So the tactical fleet was much larger than it will be in the future if the new SAR plane is not also suitable as a tactical transport (C-17s are far too big and expensive to operate in many transport missions).

In fact the Air Force has always wanted–but has not said publicly for a long time, why I do not know–new SAR planes that can double effectively as tactical transports. The current SAR Hercules–almost all H-models now I believe–do that, see the squadrons here, here and here. But those Hercs will be replaced by the new SAR aircraft. That’s why the RCAF favours the C-27. Or at least a plane with strong transport capabilities.

Actually the following was said in 2004 though I haven’t seen anything similar since (from Esprit De Corps magazine, Jan. 2012, p. 9, full text not online–but this quote is in the excerpt here):


Air Force Col. Dave Burt, director of aerospace requirements, said at the time that search and rescue was the priority, adding that the service wanted “something that is smaller and (more) cost effective than a Hercules but still has some of the transport-type qualities that a Hercules has.”

Although the aircraft would be used for search and rescue, there may be room to have them perform a secondary role of airlift if that is deemed feasible, Burt added.

I cannot help but agree with this from p. 17 of the Byers/Webb report itself:


It is noteworthy that the original SOR began its analysis of the need for a ramp by referring to the loading and unloading of cargo. This ability would of course be essential for a tactical lift cargo aircraft or an aircraft procured for a combination of cargo and SAR duties. But DND has not expressed the need for a multi-purpose aircraft nor has it made the case for one.

Why not, for pity’s sake? By the way this appears at Ceasefire.ca (the name says it all about the viewpoint of the sponsoring institute: “written by a team of staff, interns, and volunteers at the Rideau Institute”), these progressives are certainly well-coordinated–a full-court press for the home team I guess:

Report on FWSAR procurement

Meanwhile an excellent and extensive overview of the interminable mess from Defense Industry Daily:

Rescue Required: Canada’s Search-And-Rescue Aircraft Program

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

One Response to “Mark Collins - Fixed-Wing SAR Aircraft: Who Needs a Competition Anyway When Your Mind is Made Up?”

  1. admin Says:

    The Rideau Institute and its Ceasefire.ca site have been pretty free in labelling CDFAI and the Conference of Defence Associations as being funded by DND and defence corporations. CDFAI gets no fed money at all, contrary to Rideau and friends, and little enough from defence corporations (see the CDFAI Annual Report); CDA’s relatively minor funding from DND ends this year and it, at least, lists its other funders. But the Stephen Staples’ organizations don’t say that by whom they are supported, and certainly not on their websites. Can it be that the trade unions building the SAR aircraft recommended in the report noted above are contributors? Should that be noted by Staples if so? What is sauce for the goose…etc. Just asking.

    - J.L. Granatstein

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