A half-dozen companies made announcements Wednesday at the CANSEC defence trade show and conference about their intentions to bid on the Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft procurement project, which involves purchasing planes to replace the aging CC-115 Buffalo and CC-130 legacy Hercules aircraft.
Public Works posted a letter of interest on Merx, a procurement website commonly used by the federal government, in March. The letter of interest, which closed in April, called for interested companies to attend a workshop in April to identify themselves as contenders for the project.
The Canadian government's request for proposal for the FWSAR project is expected this fall, and contractor selection is projected for 2014.
Lockheed Martin and Cascade Aerospace Inc., both of which have offices in Ottawa, signed a memorandum of understanding at CANSEC and voiced their intent to pursue mutually beneficial business opportunities including the FWSAR contract and other projects related to Lockheed’s C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.
The agreement is the first of its kind that Lockheed Martin has signed with a Canadian aerospace company.
“To be successful, it’s all about partnerships,” said Jim Grant, Lockheed Martin’s vice-president for air mobility. “Cascade has proven to us over the years that they’ve been a wonderful partner.”
The two companies first worked together seven years ago. In 2010, Lockheed Martin awarded a 20-year contract to Cascade for maintenance services to support the CC-130J aircrafts that Lockheed Martin supply to the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Although the FWSAR program has been ongoing for several years, Mr. Grant said he is confident they will be bidding on the project shortly.
“Everything I hear is that fixed wing remains very important to Canada,” he said. “I’m very confident that we will see the program move forward.”
Public Works has not disclosed how many aircraft the winning bidder will be commissioned to deliver, but has said that it will follow a new procurement process, first practiced with the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, where a committee of government representatives and independent advisors oversee the process and competing firms help to develop the points system used to evaluate bidders.
Both companies agreed that this new procurement process would be beneficial for the FWSAR contract.
“Anything that yields a fair and transparent process is what the industry is looking for,” said David Schellenberg, Cascade CEO.
“If things move forward that way, it’s a very smart government,” added Mr. Grant.
Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs 123,000 people worldwide. The corporation’s net sales for 2011 were $46.5 billion.
Cascade, headquartered in Abbotsford, B.C., is a private aerospace and defence contractor with offices in Ottawa and Trenton.
Earlier in the day, Alenia Aermacchi North America and Canada, General Dynamics Canada and DRS Technologies – all of which have an office in Ottawa – announced they would team up with Provincial Aerospace, a maritime surveillance company based in St. John's, Nfld.
Alenia Aermacchi is offering up its C-27J Spartan aircraft for the bidding process, which will be complemented with technology from the other three partnering teams. The aircraft meets all the Canadian requirements, can operate in harsh climates, across vast terrains and can reach high speeds to reach those in need quickly, said Alan Calegari, CEO of Alenia Aermacchi North America.
"The search and rescue teams need an aircraft they can count on no matter the conditions or distance," he said. "The C-27J is well suited to some of Canada's harshest terrain where it will often be called into duty. The characteristics that made the C-27J the right solution for 10 other national air forces will prove critical in Canada's selection process as well."
Earlier this month, Alenia Aermacchi announced the Australian government would purchase 10 C-27J Spartans at an approximate cost of 800 million euros.
In a release, the company said the governments of Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania, Morocco, Mexico, as well as the U.S. Air Force, have placed orders for twin-engine turboprop tactical transport aircraft.
Details of the partnership will be drawn up over the next few months as the companies finalize the terms and conditions of their agreement.
"We have selected the best-in-breed in the field of avionics and search and rescue," said Mr. Calegari. "We know we can meet any requirement the program demands of us."
He would not provide a turnaround time that the government could expect to see the first aircraft if the companies were awarded the contract.
"This team represents the best capabilities in Canadian industry, combined with the most capable aircraft in the competition," said David Ibbetson, general manager of General Dynamics Canada in a statement. "We are committed to providing RCAF air crews and SAR techs with the very best search and rescue capability in the world for decades to come."
The need for a new FWSAR solution was first identified in 2004 when the federal government wrote a statement of operational requirements for the aircraft.
In July 2009, the federal government consulted with the Canadian aerospace industry and commissioned the National Research Council Canada to conduct an independent review of the 2004 requirements. The report was completed in the spring of 2010.