VICTORIA, British Columbia — Canadian Cabinet ministers will announce Dec. 8 that the Airbus C-295 has been selected as the country's new fixed-wing search-and-rescue (SAR) aircraft, according to multiple industry sources.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Procurement Minister Judy Foote will release the details that morning at the Royal Canadian Air Force base in Trenton, Ontario.

The deal will be worth around CAN$3 billion (US $2.3 billion) and would include long-term, in-service support.

The Airbus Defense and Space C-295 was selected over the C-27J aircraft from Leonardo (formerly
Finmeccanica ), according to the industry sources.

Embraer of Brazil also bid the KC-390 for the Canadian program.

Airbus officials declined to comment, referring questions to the Canadian government.

Sajjan's press secretary, Jordan Owens, declined to confirm any details on the contract award set for Thursday. "
I can say that we look forward to giving our women and men in uniform the tools they need to continue to deliver effective search-and-rescue operations ," she said.

Airbus Defence and Space has teamed with key Canadian firms for the project and other ventures on the C-295. Those include PAL Aerospace on in-service support, Pratt & Whitney Canada for engines, CAE for training and simulation, and L3 Wescam for the electro-optic sensors.

The new planes will replace the Royal Canadian Air Force's 40-year-old Buffalo aircraft and older-model C-130s currently assigned to search-and-rescue duties.

Airbus previously said it will build a new training facility in Comox, British Columbia, if it wins the contract.

For us, it's a logical location for it, as there's ready access to a variety of environments where SAR crews operate, including over the ocean, in the mountains and the North," Michael Powell, an Airbus spokesman, said earlier this year.

The Fixed Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) aircraft project is divided into a contract for the acquisition of the aircraft and another contract for 20 years of in-service support.

The Air Force expects all aircraft for the FWSAR program to be delivered by 2023.

The FWSAR project originally envisioned acquiring 17 aircraft. But that has now changed and will be capability based, according to government officials. The aerospace firms submitted in their bids the numbers of aircraft they believe are needed for Canada to handle the needed SAR capability.

In the bids, the firms were required to submit prices and aircraft numbers for a fleet to operate out of four main existing bases across Canada. Information was also requested for having planes operating from three bases.

The Canadian government originally announced its intent in the spring of 2004 to buy a fleet of new fixed-wing SAR aircraft, but the purchase has been on and off ever since.

The FWSAR project was sidelined over the years by more urgent purchases of equipment for Canada's Afghanistan mission as well as complaints made in the House of Commons by domestic aerospace firms and Airbus that the Air Force favored the C-27J aircraft for the fixed-wing SAR plane.

The Air Force strenuously denied any preference for an aircraft.


David Pugliese is the Canada correspondent for Defense News.

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