First, Team Trudeau has earned a pat on the back for, finally, getting the Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft project off dead centre, after 14 years (it started, and was promptly sabotaged by political, bureaucratic, corporate and even military infighting back in the Chrétien era). They have selected the Airbus C295W and I, at least, am fully satisfied with the aircraft.
But there are some questions.
Canada’s 32 older model Hercules aircraft are being replaced by only
four five* C-17 Globemaster III and 17 C130J Super Hercules aircraft, which, given their increased capacities and ranges makes some sense, but Canada is a HUGE country and strategic and tactical airlift matter. As my chums on Army.ca mention, the C295W is, almost, as capable as an older model C130s in the medium range tactical transport role …
Only a half dozen of the ancient CC-115 Buffalos are employed in SAR duties in Western Canada and the older model Hercs in the RCAF’s 424 and 435 Transport and Rescue Squadrons are “double tasked” as both tactical transports and SAR aircraft. Minister Foote did not explain “why” 16; is that all we could afford within the previously approved budget? Or is there a plan to double hat the C295Ws as medium range tactical transports and SAR aircraft, too? Why not just, say 15, or as many as 25? There are also some worries about the delivery dates … 2023 does seem far off for an aircraft that is in production. This project was declared to be urgent by Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2006, how can it be phased in over so long a period a decade later?
Or, could Lieutenant General Michael Hood, the commander of the RCAF, have shed some light on those issues? He appears, to me, to have stood almost mute while Minister Foote made her announcement. (I think he did explain some of the numbers rationale in response to one question.) Is he being put in some sort of political – bureaucratic purdah by Gerald Butts and Katie Telford as punishment for being perceived to have embarrassed this government because an analysis he made in the spring didn’t support a decision they made the next fall? (And heaven knows, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must always been seen to have been right about everything, all the time.)
But, those are quibbles, and one of them is pretty mean spirited, too. The point is that Prime Minister Trudeau, Defence Minister Sajjan, Procurement Minister Foote and the defence staff, too, have done something, for a change, and it appears, to me, to be a good thing, too.
* Edited on 12 Dec; thanks to Jim Parker for detecting that error on my part.