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Jan 03

It’s good enough for the UK’s rotary SAR. But it would never fly in Canada given the almost pathological importance we attach to the federal government’s being in charge of aerial (RCAF) and maritime (CCG) search and rescue, e.g. see here and here. Moreover the Canadian Forces would contest bitterly any effort to relieve them of this warm and fuzzy–but non-military–mission. The Brits (note a Canadian firm has lost out, links added):

U.K. SAR Helo Program Down To Two Bidders

LONDON — Bond Offshore Helicopters and Bristow are now the only bidders left in the running for the U.K.’s search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopter tender.

Incumbent CHC Scotia, which currently provides seven helicopters under contract for the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), was told in mid-December by the Department for Transport (DfT) that it would not be asked to submit final tenders for the decade-long, £2-3 billion ($3.26-$4.9 billion) SAR contract…

CHC’s work with the Maritime and Coastguard agency has been generally hailed as a success. The company took over the MCA SAR contract in 2008 from Bristow, successfully introducing the AW139 on the south coast and the Sikorsky S-92 in Scotland.

The company then won a similar contract in the Republic of Ireland. But the company’s involvement in the Soteria consortium — together with Thales and Royal Bank of Scotland — to bid for the SAR-H Private Finance Initiative program was highly controversial and the deal collapsed because of alleged improper conduct. An investigation into the SAR-H program is still being conducted by the U.K. Ministry of Defense.

CHC’s contract in Northern Scotland will end this July when Bristow takes over SAR duties, also using the S-92 under an interim contract due to last four years. CHC will continue to operate AW139s on SAR duties along the south coast. Both contracts will be subsumed when the long-term SAR contract begin operation in 2016. A decision from the DfT on the winner of the contract is expected in March.

The Aussies also have done some major contracting out (note Canadian planes):

Australia’s Coastwatch: A Public-Private Model for Coast Guards and CBP

Australia’s long coast is also its border, and they’ve taken an innovative approach to the problem. Unlike, say, the US Coast Guard, Australia has semi-privatized the coastal patrol function, placing contractors under the Customs service. Once intruders are detected, these contractors can then call on pre-arranged support from civil authorities and/or the Royal Australian Navy and Air Force. Contracted services of this nature are becoming more common around the world, but Australia was really breaking new ground when they began Coastwatch on such a large scale in 1995.

Coastwatch was re-competed, and in 2006, Cobham’s subsidiary Surveillance Australia Pty Ltd retained the contract through the A$ 1+ billion next phase, called Project Sentinel. The new contract under Australia’s CMS04 (Civil Maritime Surveillance 04) program has expanded the fleet and addressed some concerns, but there are still areas where Australia lags a bit behind the leading edge. Even so, Coastwatch remain a touchstone program for countries considering a similar path…

By 2005, the Coastwatch division of the Australian Customs Service contracted for the use of 15 fixed-wing aircraft and 2 helicopters from civil providers, and set annual availability quotas from Customs and Navy patrol vessels (about 1,800 hours) and RAAF AP-3C Orions (about 250 hours) under Operation Cranberry.

Except for contracted AP-3C availabilities from the RAAF, aerial surveillance is carried out by civilian operators. Indeed, the program is the world’s largest aerial civil maritime surveillance operation. It involves 170 personnel, flying 20,000 hours per year from 4 four permanent bases (Broome, Darwin, Horn Island and Cairns) around Australia’s northern coast. As of 2006, the Surveillance Australia fixed-wing aircraft roster included:

5 Dash-8 Q200 MPA aircraft fitted with Immarsat communications, SeaVue surveillance radar, infra-red sensors and daylight TV camera for long-range offshore surveillance…

Under the new 2006 Project Sentinel contract, Cobham companies will provide, operate and maintain an updated fleet of Dash-8 aircraft through to the year 2021, starting in January 2008. The new service based on Bombardier Dash-8 aircraft will double the fleet to provide all-weather, day and night electronic surveillance of Australia’s maritime Exclusive Economic Zone.

The new fleet will change to 10 Dash 8 planes: 6 Q200 aircraft, plus 4 longer-range and larger Q300 aircraft

Again I don’t think it politically possible in Canada to try “privatizing”–that horrible curse word if anything goes wrong–such a function. We really have far too little appetite to follow others’ innovations, combined with a fixation on the need for the government to do things itself. But Canada, within those constraints, still might try something a bit different. I earlier wrote this, see end at link:

…The Air Force’s fleet of Aurora maritime patrol aircraft is being reduced from 18 to 10. Those aircraft also do considerable non-military work. To reduce such demands on them why not expand and centralize the government’s current fleet of civilian maritime patrol aircraft, mainly used for pollution detection and fisheries enforcement? As far as I can determine there are six planes, three Bombardiers owned and operated by Transport Canada [more here], and three King Airs leased by Fisheries and Oceans.

Surely a few more such aircraft would be very helpful for general maritime surveillance, including such roles as law enforcement, migrant detection, vessel identification, and sovereignty patrols in the Arctic. Transport Canada could well operate such a fleet on behalf of Fisheries and Oceans, Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Canada, CBSA/RCMP, CF as required, and others.

A contract actually worth giving to Bombardier [via Field Aviation]!

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

One Response to “Mark Collins - Contracting our Rotary SAR? Plus Australia’s Coastwatch”

  1. MarkOttawa Says:

    From DID:

    “Britain’s Next Search-and-Rescue Helicopters: Civilian Contractors”

    Mark Collins

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