OTTAWA — The federal government says Canada will spend $2.3 billion to replace the military's ancient search-and-rescue planes with 16 new aircraft from European aerospace giant Airbus.
The Airbus C-295 will replace the air force's existing planes, Public Procurement Minister Judy Foote announced today at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, one of the four bases where the new aircraft will be located.
"This is a significant investment to replace our fleets of Buffalo and Hercules aircraft, strengthen Canada's capability to conduct search-and-rescue operations and keep Canadians safe,'' she said as Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Royal Canadian Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Mike Hood stood nearby.
Airbus beat out Italian firm Leonardo and Brazil's Embraer to win the contract.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, third left, Public Procurement Minister Judy Foote and the MP Neil Ellis, second right, for Bay of Quinte pose for pictures at CFB Trenton on Thursday. (Photo: CP)
The announcement, which includes an option for a 20-year maintenance contract that would increase the price-tag to $4.7 billion, has been a long time coming.
The effort to replace the Buffalo and older-model Hercules planes, some of which have been flying since the 1960s, was mired in controversy and delays for more than a decade.
The project was first launched in 2002, but was quickly derailed after the military was accused of rigging its requirements for a new search-and-rescue plane to favour one design.
The military denied the charges, but the government nonetheless took the project out of the hands of National Defence and set up numerous checks and balances that only now have produced a winner.
First planes to be delivered in 2019
Sajjan said the new C-295 planes will be a "game-changer'' when it comes to helping the military respond to emergencies around the country.
"Today we reaffirm our commitment to our women and men in uniform,'' he said. "Our dedicated SAR team embodies our military's commitment to protecting Canadians here, at home, no matter where they are.''
Foote also touted the contract as a big boost to the Canadian economy, as Airbus has paired with a number of local companies to provide the planes' engines as well as simulators and maintenance.
"Canada's leading commercial and defence aerospace companies will be able to leverage new opportunities with Airbus,'' she said.
The first C-295 are to be delivered in 2019, with the last due to arrive in 2022.