Airbus Defence and Space has completed the first flight of the first C295 aircraft designed for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft Replacement (FWSAR) programme.

The Airbus C295 military transport aircraft took off from Seville, Spain, and returned after flying for one hour and 27 minutes.

Designated CC-295, the aircraft is expected to be delivered to RCAF by the end of this year. Upon delivery, the new generation tactical airlifter will undergo operational testing.

The Government of Canada awarded the contract to Airbus in December 2016 for the procurement of 16 C295 aircraft to replace the current CC-115 Buffalo and CC-130H Hercules FWSAR aircraft.

In addition, the contract includes all in-service support such as training and engineering services, maintenance and support services.

Provisions in the contract allow for a potential extension of maintenance and support services for an additional 15 years.

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Airbus is also required to construct a simulator-equipped training centre in Comox, British Columbia.

Equipped with advanced technology systems, the CC-295 aircraft will be deployed in support of Canada’s search and rescue operations.

Advanced communication systems incorporated in the aircraft will allow real-time information sharing between search and rescue personnel and partners on the ground.

In a statement, Airbus said: “Considerable progress has been made since the FWSAR programme was announced two and a half years ago: the first aircraft will now begin flight testing, another five aircraft are in various stages of assembly, and seven simulator and training devices are in various testing stages.”

“The CC-295 aircraft will be deployed in support of Canada’s search and rescue operations.”

The company will start training the first batch of RCAF personnel later this year at its training facility in Seville.

Airbus formed a partnership with PAL Aerospace to deliver maintenance and support services.

The contract has a potential value of C$4.7bn ($3.5bn) if Canada exercises all options.

The C295 variant being delivered to Canada has the ability to transport more payload over larger distances. It features search radar, electro-optical / infrared sensors, and automatic identification system (AIS).

The company has made several enhancements to meet Canada’s specific search and rescue mission requirements.