Canada does a U-Turn on SAR privatisation

Canada does a U-Turn on SAR privatisation

15-Apr-2016 Source:

Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced last week that his Government would be launching a spending review across all aspects of the military, making it clear that there was nothing off limits.  A 36 page document was issued, inviting feedback on what the military should – or should not – be involved in.

One section focused on their SAR role, asking if there were “models for alternative service delivery that could be explored”, continuing with “Given the range of other actors engaged in this activity and the small proportion of rescues that require CAF assets, a valid question is: what role should the CAF have in search and rescue?”

The previous Canadian Government – led by the now opposition party – explored this potential some years back and then withdrew, as the Canadian Air Force saw it as a core part of their existence, and one of the most visible ones to the general public.

Then this week, Sajjan told the House of Commons “The previous government might have been looking at privatizing search and rescue, But I can assure the member that this government is not, because the Canadian Armed Forces play a critical role in search and rescue.”.  So that’s a U-turn.

It also ignores the fact that other countries – with HeliHub’s home in the UK being a prime example – are quite happily running the full SAR service outsourced to private operators – principally Bristow Helicopters in the UK, although there are still three CHC AW139s still in the role until summer 2017.  Neighbouring Ireland also has outsourced SAR with CHC flying five S92s there.

Canada currently operates 14 AW101s in the SAR role

Jeremy Parkin –

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