In 2015-16, we continued preparations for the transition of our dedicated airborne search and rescue service. The current service provider, AeroRescue Pty Ltd, handed over responsibility for the first base in Perth on 8 August 2016. AeroRescue has operated specially-modified Dornier 328 aircraft in this role for us since 2005 and the final aircraft is expected to remain in service until February 2017.
From August 2016, we commenced a staged transition to a new service provider, Cobham SAR Services Pty Ltd. Cobham will operate four specially-modified Bombardier Challenger (604) jets from three bases: Perth, Cairns and Essendon. The fourth aircraft is designated a maintenance spare and will be capable of deployment to any base to maintain the service, and may be used in training.
The Challenger jets will sustain our capability to undertake visual and electronic searches for people in distress. Like the existing Dornier aircraft, the Challenger jets will also be capable of delivering a full range of survival equipment through an inflight operable door.
The aircraft will be on call 24/7, with an expected time to launch a response of 30 minutes by day, and 60 minutes at night. The Challenger also has an eight-hour endurance without refuelling, which is equivalent to a non-stop range of over 3000 nautical miles.
The Challenger’s crew of five will be trained to use its full suite of equipment which includes the latest generation direction-finding equipment, radar, infra-red, and video anomaly sensors. The latter is a new capability for AMSA and will allow the aircraft’s mission management system to analyse the images captured through high definition video cameras and alert the crew to potential targets such as people in the water and life rafts. Other sensors can then be used to further analyse the area, or the crew can look through specially-modified observation windows and use visual search techniques to confirm the sighting.