Friday, October 19, 2018

CAF Ditches Plan for New Paint Scheme on SAR Aircraft

By: David Pugliese, The National Post 

Canada’s military has reversed its plan to abandon the familiar yellow paint scheme for the country’s new search-and-rescue planes after debate within the ranks over the aircraft’s need to be visible on such missions.

The new fleet of 16 Airbus C-295W planes will replace the main Royal Canadian Air Force search-and-rescue fleet of Buffalo aircraft as well as the Hercules transport planes which are also used at times in a search-and-rescue role. Postmedia reported last year that RCAF leadership had requested the new planes be painted tactical grey, asking for a change to the original contract which had stipulated the familiar yellow colour scheme, because they wanted the aircraft to be available for other missions, including combat.

But the move to the grey paint scheme has now been reversed. “While there was, last year, a stated interest in painting the C-295W grey, a decision was made following further consultation to maintain the iconic yellow colour scheme of the RCAF’s current SAR fleet, such as the Buffalo, Twin Otter, Cormorant and Griffon,” the Department of National Defence said in a statement Wednesday. “This colour, which provides a higher level of visibility and recognition in the ground and the air, is also widely known by Canadians — especially those who might find themselves in a situation requiring our aid.”

Asked last year about the plan to ditch the yellow paint scheme, the Forces said in a statement to Postmedia that “the RCAF has made the decision to use a grey colour scheme for the C-295W fleet to enable surging flexibility for the very wide range of missions the RCAF is required to conduct, from humanitarian and disaster relief missions, to security missions with partners, and all the way to full spectrum operations.”

Military sources said RCAF leadership wanted to redirect some of the planes for use on international missions instead of search-and-rescue. But that unilateral decision sparked heated debate inside the military and DND and, sources said, the air force was forced to abandon its plans.

When the federal government awarded the contract to Airbus in December 2016, cabinet ministers highlighted the importance of having the right aircraft for the search-and-rescue job. “With this technology, we are giving our women and men in uniform the tools they need to continue to deliver effective and essential search and rescue operations,” defence minister Harjit Sajjan said at the time.

Construction of the first aircraft began in 2017 and the first new planes are expected to be delivered in 2019. They are outfitted with sensors that allow RCAF personnel to share real-time information with searchers on the ground. Equipment also includes sensors for searching in low-light conditions. A centre, equipped with simulators, is being built at Comox, B.C. to support training for the air crews.

The RCAF’s Buffalo and Hercules aircraft assigned to search and rescue perform more than 350 missions annually, according to the Canadian Forces. The Canadian military is responsible for providing aeronautical search and rescue operations.
The RCAF’s search-and-rescue Buffalo aircraft, above, will be replaced, but the yellow colour scheme will remain with the new Airbus planes. DND
But the project to purchase the new planes has faced a rough road over the years. The competition was announced in 2004 by the then-Liberal government and re-announced by the Conservative government in 2006. But it took another decade before it could be completed and Airbus declared the winning company.

Even then, Leonardo, an Italian aerospace firm, launched a lawsuit against Canada over what it claimed was a rigged purchase that favoured Airbus.

That lawsuit was dropped earlier this year, shortly before the federal government awarded Leonardo a new sole-source deal potentially worth billions of dollars to upgrade Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopters.

Officials with the Canadian Forces and Leonardo say the ending of the legal action in May had nothing to do with the company being picked for the new project the same month.

No comments:

Post a Comment