Mark Collins – Fixed-Wing SAR: A Tale of Two Tails? Part 3

Further to these posts,

Fixed-Wing SAR: A Tale of Two Tails?

Fixed-Wing SAR: A Tale of Two Tails? Part 2

here’s another idea for a mixed fleet–that interestingly would keep a significant transport capacity too (that long unspoken air force desideratum, see links at end) and add an arctic/maritime patrol role. And give business to Bombardier. From the Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 12, No. 4:

FWSAR Plus: A Way Forward

FWSAR Plus Concept

With program launch looming, a detailed examination is merited of broader capabilities that can be achieved beyond SAR, and the range of potential solutions. The result is FWSAR Plus with two components:

  • Reduce the dedicated FWSAR buy from 15 C-27J Spartans to ten Canadian–manufactured Q400-based SAR aircraft, to be split between CFBs Comox and Greenwood, with deployments as required to Forward Operating Bases, such as Yellowknife, Goose Bay, and Iqaluit for domestic SAR/Medevac and Arctic/offshore sovereignty surveillance [emphasis added].
  • Retire/sell off all remaining H-model Hercules transports and procure ten additional new Hercules, based on the HC-130J Combat King SAR platform now entering service with the US Air Force (USAF), to be split between CFBs Winnipeg and Trenton in aerial refueling and Special Operations / Combat SAR roles respectively, along with domestic SAR response in Central Canada…

Additional roles and missions addressed by FWSAR Plus range from augmenting the airlift fleet and the long-range patrol aircraft force [emphasis added] to aerial refueling and Special Operations Forces (SOF) support. This inherent flexibility enhances overall CF support to increasingly important Arctic operations, and, in the case of new HC-130Js, a range of potential international missions…

The RCAF currently designates 13 CC130H Hercules and six CC115 Buffalo aircraft for FWSAR response. The Hercules operate from CFBs Greenwood, Trenton, and Winnipeg, while the Buffalos are all based at CFB Comox. Of these, the six Buffalos and the Hercules at Greenwood and Trenton are dedicated to SAR, with transport as a secondary mission, while the Hercules at Winnipeg are predominately employed on airlift and aerial refueling tasks [emphasis added]…


A Bombardier/Field Aviation Q400-based SAR platform, promoted under the trademarked designation P-400 by Field, is clearly the optimum Canadian solution in terms of cost, performance, capability, and maturity…

…the Q400 SAR would have two large air-operable doors, one for personnel parachute operations – both static line and free fall, and one for equipment drops [eliminating the need for a ramp? which is still needed for the transport role, would have it with new SAR Jerks]. Field has installed, tested, and certified similar in-flight opening doors on Dash 8 MSAs delivered to Sweden, Iceland, and Australia [more here]. Importantly, Field Aviation has extensive experience integrating FWSAR compatible sensors in Dash 8 MSAs, including Elta and Raytheon belly-mounted search radars, and FLIR turrets mounted under the nose of the aircraft [more here]…

Jim Dorschner is a Special Correspondent for IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly and the Shephard Media Group of defence publications. He is a retired US Army lieutenant colonel with 24 years of service roughly divided between aerial ISR operations, and, from 1991, service as an intelligence officer with Special Forces and Special Operations Forces. 

The article goes on to examine several possible aircraft in considerable detail. Earlier:

The Never-Ending Fixed-Wing SAR Never Never Land

Fixed-Wing SAR Aircraft: Who Needs a Competition Anyway When Your Mind is Made Up?
[dealing with Prof. Byers, notes the RCAF’s now never-mentioned transport capability desideratum, lots of further links]

As for that patrol mission, Mr Dorschner‘s proposal would seem to fit well with ideas here:

New RCAF Chief: Innovative Thinking on Maritime Patrol, Drones

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute

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