Don’t rule out the V-22 from Canada’s fixed-wing search and rescue (FWSAR) project. Recent reports have suggested that if the government does issue a request for proposals (RFP) this spring as some now expect, a number of potential bidders who had been vying for visibility over the past 11 years will opt out, including Bell Boeing and its V-22 Osprey.

Because the program has taken over a decade to reach the RFP stage, a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen’s well read Defence Watch blog said the number of bidders could be down to three: Alenia Aermacchi and its C-27J Spartan; Airbus Defence and Space and its C295; and Lockheed Martin and the C-130J.

Others unlikely to continue with the program, it said, were Bombardier, Viking Air and Bell Boeing. Bombardier has always been problematic because its Q series/Dash 8 planes do not have a rear ramp and there were doubts the cost to redesign and certify an aircraft would be worth the expense. Viking Air had offered to produce a new version of the current workhorse DHC-5 Buffalo, but the government had expressed reluctance to take on a new build given its experience with the maritime helicopter replacement program.

Perhaps the most intriguing option has been the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, which has rapidly becoming the gold standard for combat SAR. In its article, Defence Watch said the company “had gone silent.”

In a statement to Vanguard, however, officials with Bell-Boeing said the company is still monitoring the $3.1 billion program and “believe the V-22 Osprey is a good match for the FWSAR mission as it is the most effective and efficient aircraft for search and rescue efforts. The final requirements of the RFP will determine whether we will offer the V-22 for FWSAR.”

The new FWSAR fleet will replace the almost 50-year-old Buffalo aircraft and some legacy C-130 Hercules now used in search and rescue.