Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fixed-Wing Search Plane Program Almost Short-Circuited by RCAF Proposal

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Fixed-Wing Search Plane Program Almost Short-Circuited by RCAF Proposal

Article excerpt

RCAF pushed for surplus U.S. search planes

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OTTAWA - The Canadian air force wanted to pursue the direct purchase of surplus fixed-wing U.S. planes for search-and-rescue despite almost a decade of complaints that it had rigged specifications in the current, long-delayed procurement project.

Internal documents, obtained by The Canadian Press, show military planners pitched the notion of acquiring C-27J transports that were expected to be sold by the Pentagon two years ago as part of a massive budget-cutting exercise south of the border.

Planners were interested even though they had been accused of favouring the Italian-built aircraft from the beginning, an apparent bias that has contributed to the inability of two successive governments to deliver replacements for the existing fleet of 50-year-old C-115 Buffalos and nearly 30-year-old C-130-H Hercules.

The potential sale represented "a unique, time-sensitive investment opportunity" and air force staff developed three options for National Defence and the Harper government to consider knowing a direct buy would meet "significant resistance" from aerospace contractors "given the level of industrial expectations" that had been raised.

It was also acknowledged in the analysis there were would be fewer industrial benefits for the country.

"Although significant cost savings are anticipated, there will potentially be resistance to a direct buy," said the Feb. 12, 2012, presentation.

The question of whether Canada would even be allowed to buy them hung in the balance until late last fall when U.S. Special Operations Command, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Forest Service expressed interest in dividing up the 21 planes, some of which hadn't even come off the assembly line.

The air force went as far as to formally ask the U.S. for price and availability through the materiel branch of National Defence. …

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