Arctic Presence – Search & Rescue – SAR Techs –
Updated – November 2009
Air Force must focus on core missions —
Time to calve off SAR
Local Civilian Agencies may prove to be
Dianne DeMille , Editor , Canadian
American Strategic Review ( CASR )
Update 21 July 2010: Another FWSAR Industry
Day has been announced to cover the revised Statement of Operational Requirements (SOR) and
to investigate contracted service options.
In the News :
On 09 November 2009, Canadian Forces Search and Rescue
Technicians ( SAR Techs ), rescued an Inuit youth from a moving
ice floe. No small feat. SAR Tech training is
extremely rigourous, physically and mentally. These technicians are an elite force. However, Canadian citizens
and CF personnel alike are concerned about how long it took the aircraft to reach the area – and
how inadequately the aircraft was equipped for this mission. There may be a number of options
to address these inadequacies – this editorial focuses on removing the SAR missions from the list
of primary tasks assigned to the Canadian Air Force.
Air Staff has demonstrated that they
have too many tasks and not enough resources
The evidence is in. We have assigned to our Air Force too many tasks – and,
at the same time, given the AF too few resources to accomplish those tasks. In
the past, the political practice has been to throw money at aircraft acquisition (often
undermining the readiness of our Army and Navy in the process). These
attempts at making the problem ' go away ' have proven to
be counter-productive. Let us now try a more seriously thought-through approach :
Reduce the burden of too many AF missions ( without
the appropriate levels
of resource allocations ). Calving off Search-and-Rescue
is the most logical first step.
The standing Defence White Paper lists three (3) core missions for
the Canadian Forces:
• Defence of Canada, the nation - state, and
the security of all of its citizens.
• Defence of the North American continent, its maritime approaches, and
These missions are undertaken in cooperation with the
United States military.
• Expeditionary (overseas) missions judged to be in Canada's
These missions are carried out in cooperation with
Ideally, the Prime Minister will seek
Parliamentary support of these missions. 
Some operations must be eliminated so that we can re-invest
funds into core missions
When a corporation grows quickly, it sometimes takes on too many diverse
enterprises, stretching beyond its core competencies. In the long-run, this over-reach
of diversity is not fiscally sustainable – and it bleeds
away organizational focus.
This is the position
in which the Canadian Air Force now finds itself –
too many tasks which are well outside the core missions laid down by
the Government of Canada.
Citizens must press for change.
Were the Air Force a corporation, executive officers
would ask some hard questions:
• What are the core missions of the corporation? Where
does the company excel?
• In which areas has the company become inefficient, unable to
achieve the clear and
reasonable goals that have been set
out for it by the original mission statement?
• Which inefficient, non-productive operations do we need to cut in
order to preserve
the viability of the
company as a whole, and ensure success into the
Once these savvy, tough-minded corporate decision- makers had addressed those
three questions, they would then use the answers arrived at to draw up
a feasible 'action plan'. This is the point when the difficult
choices must be made – for the overall good of the company.
In our case, we must consider the good of
the whole country, as well as the continued viability (and usefulness ) of
the Canadian Air Force.
Perhaps regional civilian agencies could carry out SAR more efficiently
at lower cost
Our nation covers an enormous geographical area with three
distinct coastlines.  The challenges of monitoring the West Coast are very different
from those on the East Coast.  This means trying to coordinate a common fleet of military aircraft
to perform a wide range of aerial search-and-rescue tasks which are decidedly non-military in nature.
Time for a change.
Using regional, civilian contractors would allow for a range of aircraft types and sizes. No commonality
of aircraft type between regions is needed – aircraft can be tailored to the specific requirements of a
region or mixed-fleets employed for a layered approach to SAR as well as day-to-day monitoring of
the sovereignty and security of our maritime approaches (as is currently done by Provincial
St. John's-based Provincial Airlines is no stranger to performing contracted patrol flights. In 1989,
PAL began replacing Canadian Forces aircraft on fisheries patrols, as well as providing gathered surveillance
data to DND. Since beginning these operations, PAL has branched out into marketing such patrols
internationally. A successful example is the patrol flown by PAL for the Netherlands Antilles in an
arrangement modelled on Australia's Coastwatch.
Canadian civilian operators can and do perform these tasks more efficiently, at lower costs to taxpayers,
and with much improved results. As a side benefit, the Canadian Forces can focus on its core mandate.
Available military aircraft could still operate as back-ups for aerial SAR (as done by the
RCMP and other agencies with SAR as a secondary role). But the burden of aerial SAR as a primary
role would be removed from the Canadian Forces and, along with it, the distractions of
SAR aircraft procurement and the tying up CF personnel in a civilian role.
 Parliament has voted to keep the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan at least
The Afghan mission must, for the time being,
be the key focus for all parts of the CF.
 For simplicity (and because the current FWSAR debate cannot get past replacing the
CC-115 Buffalo ), we have not
addressed aerial search-and-rescue over inland areas.
 The Arctic coastine is long, with a variety of specific geographical challenges.
Arctic SAR may require a wide range of different small-
and medium-sized aircraft.
 Data is sent to the CF Maritime Operational Information and Surveillance
CFB Halifax or CFB Comox. This arrangement
allowed the retirement of the CP-121s.
 In both cases, radar-equipped DeHavilland Canada Dash-8 MPAs are used,
modified for the new role by Field
Aviation of Toronto (for more Canadian content).