A British defence firm has won a 12-year contract to provide airborne search and rescue capabilities in Australia.
Cobham Aviation Services will acquire, modify, commission and then operate and maintain four Bombardier Challenger CL-604 special mission jets for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) from 2016.
The AMSA is responsible for performing airborne search and rescue tasks such as searching for missing people, locating activated distress beacons, providing communications support at an incident and dropping survival equipment to people in distress.
Work on the four jets will begin later this year to modify them to Australian requirements and fit them with new generation sensors, high-vision windows and air-operable doors for aerial delivery of life-saving equipment.
Peter Nottage, sector president for Cobham, said: “In a situation where time can be the difference between life and death, Cobham will provide world-leading safety and rescue capability to AMSA and Australia.
“Building on Cobham’s 30 years of experience in special mission operations around the world, including in Australia, the turnkey solution we will provide to AMSA represents an evolutionary improvement in range capability and speed to incident sites with longer loiter and search time over the search zone.
“In addition, the mission management and communications system offers technological advantages, including latest generation electronic sensor technology and broadband satellite communications with real-time sharing of streamed video, audio and imagery between the aircraft and AMSA’s Rescue Coordination Centre based in Canberra, Australia.”
When estimated flying charges are included the contract is likely to be worth AU$640m (£350m) over 12 years and if three additional optional years are exercised by the AMSA, the full value would exceed $700m.
Much of the modification work will be undertaken at Cobham’s facilities in Adelaide, south Australia. The aircraft will be based in Cairns, Melbourne and Perth and Cobham will employ five-member air crews who will be on permanent standby to enable search and rescue tasking at any time of day or night.