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Search and rescue

We provide a fixed wing search and rescue response capability over land and sea using specially-modified aircraft.

Cobham fixed wing search-and-rescue response capability

Cobham is contracted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to provide Australia’s national Tier 1 search and rescue response service utilising a fleet of Challenger 604 jet aircraft to cover Australia’s vast search-and-rescue region of almost one tenth of the Earth’s surface.

The service is tasked to “minimise the loss of life, injury, property damage or loss by delivering aid to persons in distress in maritime and land environments”. To meet this responsibility the fleet of four aircraft are stationed at three bases around Australia on 24/7 standby.

The specially-modified SAR aircraft enhance airborne search and rescue tasks with faster response times, extended range and considerably longer presence in Australia’s search-and-rescue region. The technology on board these aircraft enable AMSA’s Search and Rescue officers to be virtual crew members with eyes and ears at the scene as events unfold.

Typical AMSA challenger SAR aircraft taskings

– Typical AMSA challenger SAR aircraft taskings

SAR jet capability

The SAR capability is delivered through our fleet of Challenger jets located at strategic bases across the country. Each aircraft is equipped to deliver life-saving equipment like life rafts, dewatering pumps, and supplies of food and water using a purpose-designed dispatch and parachute system.

The length and nature of missions are highly situational and can vary from a beacon search lasting less than two hours to multiple missions and aircraft over a number of days for a singular incident.

  • A. Melbourne SAR base
    Two Challenger SAR aircraft positioned at base
  • B. Perth SAR base
    One Challenger SAR aircraft positioned at base
  • C. Cairns SAR base
    One Challenger SAR aircraft positioned at base

Our SAR jets have been specifically modified to our requirements and fitted with new generation sensors, high vision windows and air operable doors for the 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.

  • A. Mobile Phone Homing System
  • B. SAR Direction Finder
  • C. Video Anomaly Detection System
  • D. Sophisticated Navigation System
  • E. High Vision Observer Window
  • F. Multi Mode Search Radar
  • G. Comprehensive Communications Suite
  • H. Acacia Mission Management System
  • I. SAR Stores Inventory
  • J. HD Electro Optic Turret
  • K. High Bandwidth SATCOM

Case study: man plucked from ocean after 8 hour ordeal

Case study: survivor of stricken yacht reunited with his rescuers