Aerospace consortium proposes Comox, BC as location for new SAR training center

By David Pugliese

June 22, 2016 - A consortium trying to win a $3 billion contract to provide Canada with new search and rescue aircraft says it will build a new training facility in British Columbia if it is selected as the winning bidder.

The proposed three-storey, 73,000 square foot building would be located in Comox, British Columbia, Steve Lucas, a retired lieutenant general and former head of the Royal Canadian Air Force, told a news conference on Wednesday. Lucas is with Team Spartan, a consortium of companies which bid the C-27J aircraft for the Canadian contract.

Team Spartan consists of Leonardo-Finmeccanica, General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada, DRS Technologies Canada and other firms. The company faces competition from Airbus and its team, which are offering Canada its C-295 plane as well as Embraer of Brazil, which has proposed its KC-390.

A new aircraft fleet will replace the Canadian military’s existing fleet of Buffalo and Hercules aircraft used for search and rescue. The Buffalos, first purchased in 1967, are key to search and rescue on the west coast and in parts of the Rockies.

The training center and training support system will be designed, built and managed by a team of Canadian-based companies led by DRS Technologies Canada Ltd. The new facility will be designed to house a cadre of instruction classrooms, the air maintenance training hangar, and state-of-the-art full-flight and sensor-operator simulators for the C-27J Spartan aircraft, Lucas said.

19 Wing Comox is home to the Buffalo search and rescue aircraft as well as CH-149 Cormorant helicopters, also used for SAR missions.

Lucas said Comox is an ideal training location because of its proximity to mountain areas, the ocean and other bodies of water.

The Canadian government expects to select the winning bidder by the end of the year.

During the election campaign, the Liberals promised that their government would “prioritize the acquisition of cost-effective search and rescue aircraft.”

The project originally envisioned buying 17 aircraft. But that has been changed and it will be up to aerospace firms to submit in their bids the numbers of aircraft they believe are needed for Canada to handle the needed search and rescue capability.