Backgrounder – Delay in Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the CC-295 Kingfisher


About the Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft Replacement (FWSAR) Project

A modern and capable military is critical to Canada’s domestic security and our contribution on the world stage. This includes our role in domestic search and rescue (SAR). To this end the Government of Canada is ensuring Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members have the right equipment to complete the lifesaving work they do by replacing Canada’s existing fixed-wing search and rescue fleets.

About the project:

  • Acquisition of a fleet of 16 new CC-295 Kingfisher fixed-wing search and rescue sensor-equipped aircraft.
  • Contract awarded in 2016 to Airbus Defence and Space and includes:
    • 16 new aircraft;
    • A new simulator-equipped training centre in Comox, B.C.;
    • Ongoing maintenance and support services for the aircraft; and
    • Options to extend the maintenance and support services for an additional 15 years.
  • Aircraft are being built in Spain before they are flown to Canada for further work and operational testing.
    • Currently there are four accepted CC-295 Kingfisher aircraft in Canada, and six in Spain.
  • Currently valued at $2.90 billion (including taxes).
    • Up to $5.4 billion (including taxes) if all 15-year options are exercised.
  • Aircraft production is progressing on schedule. Aircraft are being produced at an average rate of five per year. We expect to accept the sixteenth and final aircraft by the end of 2022.

The CC-295 Kingfisher’s capabilities

The CC-295 Kingfisher aircraft will be equipped with a sensor suite that will include:

  • A search radar to detect objects from long range (hundreds of kilometers, depending on object size), and in all weather conditions;
  • An electro-optical/infra-red sensor to detect and identify objects, including detecting heat radiation during searches where vision is obscured (e.g. night searches, searching in wooded areas, etc.);
  • An automatic identification system to identify and locate transponder-equipped ships;
  • A communication system that will increase interoperability with other SAR assets; and,
  • A new mission management system that can record and track multiple search objects at the same time.

Initial Operational Capability of the CC-295 Kingfisher

To declare Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for this project the CAF requires a minimum of five fully functional aircraft, supported by trained aircrew and maintenance technicians, as well as the necessary infrastructure. This capability must be employable and ready to assume search and rescue duties for its first assigned region of Victoria, B.C. Deliveries of aircraft to other locations will follow. Full Operational Capability (FOC) will be achieved once all aircraft are delivered and fully operational.


When the project was first approved, the CC-295 Kingfisher IOC was scheduled for the end of 2020, with FOC scheduled for the end of 2022.  This baseline project schedule was established in March 2015, prior to selecting the prime contractor, and therefore did not account for the complexities associated with the winning bidder’s design.

As the project has progressed, we’ve gained a better understanding of the complex work needed to meet all the requirements necessary for the CC-295 to conduct its search and rescue missions. This includes significant design and development, integration of new capabilities, testing, qualification and certification, as well as work required to deliver the necessary technical publications, courseware and support systems.

With the added impacts of COVID-19, the IOC target date is shifting from summer 2022 to fiscal year 2025-2026, and FOC from summer 2024 to fiscal year 2029-2030.

These extended timelines are a result of several factors related to certification, technical considerations, and training maturity.

Certification and qualification:
The existing Airbus C295 aircraft has been certified by civilian and military agencies for airworthiness. However, in order to meet the Canadian requirements for search and rescue and as part of their initial proposal, Airbus included over thirty design changes to the base model for the CC-295 Kingfisher. These changes have resulted in a requirement for additional certifications. Along with this, and challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the volume and sequencing of work by Airbus and by the CAF requires more time and cannot be expedited, contributing to the delay.

Technical considerations:
To meet the Canadian FWSAR requirement, Airbus chose to develop and integrate new capabilities.  In the process of the development, unforeseen technical challenges have been identified that are taking Airbus and its sub-contractors time to resolve.

For example, deficiencies were identified in the Crew Annunciation System (CAS) within the cockpit avionics, which provides the aircrew with information on the aircraft’s status and its systems. These deficiencies must be corrected through software and/or hardware development and updates which takes time and follows a rigorous testing and certification process. This cannot be circumvented, to ensure the proper function and safety of the aircraft and its crew.

Training maturity:
For any new capability, aircraft operating instructions and related training materials must be developed that are reflective of the final aircraft configuration. Delays with the qualification of capabilities and the resolution of technical issues are, therefore, in turn, impacting the development of the operating instructions and courseware.

We continue to work closely with Airbus to complete the work needed to ensure the aircraft meets Canada’s search and rescue requirements.

Impacts of the delays

It is essential to note that these project timelines will not impact SAR coverage in Canada. The CAF have implemented a plan to ensure continuous fixed-wing SAR availability and coverage during the transition to the CC-295, including during this delay.

And, while operationalization of the aircraft will take more time, we currently expect to remain within the project’s approved budget. Like any large-scale procurement project, we will continue working with our suppliers to actively monitor and manage the project’s budget to ensure the best value for Canadians.

Way Forward - Interim SAR Coverage

The retirement of the CC-115 Buffalo and delay in IOC of the CC-295 means an interim solution to fixed-wing search and rescue coverage is required. To ensure ongoing coverage, the CAF will rely on existing CC-130 Hercules aircraft until the CC-295 is able to assume SAR operations.

The CC-130H Hercules, in a SAR role, is capable of responding quickly to emergencies such as crashed aircraft or ships in distress in challenging weather and climates. It can parachute SAR Technicians, emergency gear and food, life rafts, bailing pumps, arctic survival gear and drop illumination flares to support SAR missions on the surface.

The current plan is to continue the employment of the CC130H in the Trenton and Halifax Search and Rescue Regions. Interim SAR coverage in Search and Rescue Region Victoria is currently being provided by 435 Squadron operating CC-130H Hercules aircraft out of Winnipeg.  Beginning at the end of May 2022, two CC-130H Hercules will deploy to Comox, B.C., to be operated directly from there.

Search and Rescue Region Victoria will have ongoing support from CH-149 Cormorant helicopters - highly-capable SAR aircraft based at 442 Squadron in Comox, B.C. For fixed-wing support for missions at sea, Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Victoria may also call upon the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 407 Squadron CP-140 Auroras and U.S. Coast Guard fixed-wing aircraft to provide additional support if needed.

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