Challenger aircraft

We have four Bombardier Challenger 604 jet aircraft for search and rescue. The Challengers are based out of Perth, Melbourne and Cairns.

We are responsible for national maritime and aviation search and rescue across an internationally agreed search and rescue region covering approximately one-tenth of the Earth's surface. 

A contract was signed in October 2014 with Cobham SAR Services Pty Ltd (Cobham) to provide the next generation aircraft dedicated to search and rescue from late 2016 for a period of 12 years. Cobham acquired, modified, commissioned, operate and maintain the four Bombardier Challenger CL-604 special mission jet aircraft to provide a search and rescue capability over land and sea. The aircraft are available for search and rescue tasking at short notice, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In 2023, the Cairns based Challenger was painted with a design from a Badu Island artist, Michael Nona.


Facts and figures

The four Bombardier Challenger 604 jets have been specifically modified to our requirements and fitted with new generation sensors, high vision windows and air operable doors for aerial delivery of life saving equipment.

Transit speed—M0.74/445 knots true airspeed (KTAS) to M0.8/490 KTAS. This is equivalent to a commercial jet airliner speed.

Aircraft endurance—8 hours in normal standby configuration.

Flight range—3086 nautical miles (5715 kilometres) means the Challenger is well equipped at any of its base stations to respond to distress calls, as detailed in the map below.

Visual detection and ranging (ViDAR)—Sentient ViDAR maritime anomaly detection software with fixed staring three-camera array means that the Challenger has an improved capacity to conduct visual searches for small targets in the water, complementing the visual searching of the crew.

Observation—The Challenger has large observer windows forward of the wings which will assist in visual search operations.

Delivery—An air operable door enables the Challenger to deliver life-sustaining stores and communications equipment to those in distress.

AMSA Challenger diagram AMSA Challenger diagram


AMSA Challenger diagram AMSA Challenger diagram


AMSA Challenger diagram AMSA Challenger diagram


Base locations

The three bases for the Challenger allow for a comprehensive coverage of Australia's search and rescue region. The Challengers are based out of Perth, Melbourne and Cairns.

Map of base locations for the AMSA Challenger Map of base locations for the AMSA Challenger
Last updated: 23 January 2024