L3 WESCAM Delivers First EO/IR System for Canada’s Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Program

L3 WESCAM has delivered the first MX-15 electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) system to Airbus Defense and Space in support of Canada’s Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) aircraft replacement program.

The system is configured to effectively support a search area of 18 million square kilometers.


The on-time delivery of L3’s MX-15, the first of 20 planned deliveries, is a significant milestone as the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) begins to replace its legacy Search and Rescue (SAR) aircraft, the CC-115 Buffalo and CC-130H Hercules, and the technology within with a new fleet of CC-295 aircraft – a variant of  Airbus C295 tactical military airlifter.

“L3 is proud to partner with Airbus on this much anticipated Canadian program – as it really hits close to home for WESCAM and its large base of Canadian employees,” said Matt Richi, President of L3 WESCAM. “This aircraft and the technologies that support this program have been referred to as a ‘game-changer’ for Canada, and we couldn’t be happier to be a key system in the overall solution.”

L3 WESCAM’s work with Airbus on this program is an ideal example of the Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy furthering Canadian industry by requiring successful bidders on major defence contracts to reinvest the contract value in Canada.

Simon Jacques, head of Airbus Defence and Space Canada, said, “Thanks to the efforts of Canada’s high-performing aerospace companies like L3 WESCAM, the FWSAR program is making excellent progress. We’re delighted to be working with them and very satisfied to see this latest milestone being reached on time.”

Canada has a search area of 18 million square kilometers, making time-critical SAR operations challenging. The high-sensitivity sensors and advanced GEO and intuitive technologies within the MX-15 will provide SAR operators with exceptional day and night visual capabilities, despite atmospheric interference, and will operate with detection and identification ranges that will help to shorten search grid patterns and on-scene search times.


Canada announced that it had selected the Airbus C295W for its Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) Program in late 2016.

The new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft will carry out critical, life-saving search and rescue missions across Canada’s vast and challenging territory, including the Arctic.

In June this year, Airbus announced that the assembly of the first of Canada’s fleet of CC-295 Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) aircraft is well underway at the Airbus-Pre Final Assembly Line (Pre-FAL) in Tablada, Spain. FAL operations will begin in late 2018 leading to roll-out of the aircraft in the first quarter of 2019.

The CC-295 features substantial Canadian content. Every C295 is powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada engines, pilots will be trained at a new facility developed by CAE, and the electro-optical systems for FWSAR will be provided by L3 Wescam. In-Service Support for the life of the program will be provided by AirPro, a joint venture between Airbus Defence and Space and PAL Aerospace.

Using integrated sensors, crews will be able to locate persons or objects—such as downed aircraft—from more than 40 kilometres away, even in low-light conditions. This will contribute to improving the overall effectiveness of searches. It is anticipated that the on-scene search time will be reduced with the use of these enhanced sensor capabilities.

The aircraft will also use state-of-the-art communications systems that will allow search and rescue personnel to share real-time information with partners on the ground. The existing fleets will be maintained and operated throughout the transition to maintain search and rescue capabilities.

Canada will receive the first C295 in late 2019, with remaining aircraft being delivered over the following three years. These aircraft will take over the search and rescue duties currently being done by six CC-115 Buffalo and 12 CC-130 Hercules aircraft. The aircraft will be even more reliable and available more often than the current fleet.

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