The search and rescue arm of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym) has received reinforcements. The Search and Rescue (SAR) version of the new Airbus C-295 aircraft called the SC-105 Amazonas SAR, will be operated by the Second Squadron of the Tenth Aviation Group - Pelican Squadron (2º/10º GAV), based in Campo Grande in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, in the mid-western region of Brazil.
Before commencing operations in Brazil, the aircraft will take part in a series of demonstrations in Asia and North America. FAB has purchased two C-295 SAR aircraft for approximately $170 million. The purchasing agreement also includes personnel training in equipment and maintenance, replacement parts and SAR equipment, as well as technology transfer.
According to Air Force Major Valdir Machado da Costa Júnior, a member of the CL-X2 project in the Combat Aircraft Program Coordinating Committee, the SC-105 Amazonas SAR will be the most efficient among all the aircraft employed in search and rescue in Brazil. “This aircraft can undertake simultaneous visual and electronic area sweeps,” he explained. Maj. Machado added that the thermal and close-up imaging capabilities of the aircraft will provide confirmation of any sightings within seconds.
The search precision is attributed to the Elta EL/M-2022A(V) Model 3 radar system. Capable of tracking 640 targets simultaneously over a 200-nautical-mile radius (approximately 340 kilometers), the radar enables small moving targets to be detected and tracked on the surface. Maj. Machado also highlighted the FLIR Star Safire III infrared electro-optical system fitted to the aircraft that allows for both day and night missions. “With this system, it is possible to obtain color images amplified 18 times, thus enabling it to operate in low-light conditions where sensors detect thermal contrasts that can be amplified up to 71 times,” he added.
According to Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jorge Marcelo Martins da Silva, the commanding officer of the 2º/10º GAV, the new aircraft constitutes a significant operational asset for the fulfillment of its mission. “The larger number of observation windows, compared to the currently operated SC-105 Amazonas, increases the probability of sighting its objectives,” he said. “Crews will be able to operate with night-vision goggles, launch life rafts and sea markers, and drop parachutists and supplies.”
According to Lt. Col. Martins, in addition to visual search, its electronic search capacity is another advantage to this new aircraft. “The color images it produces can be analyzed by operators manning stations in the aircraft cabin, known as Fully Integrated Tactical System or FITS, or by specialists in the Mission Support Center located at the Pelican Squadron base, who will be equipped with computers receiving data from HF (High Frequency) radio transmissions or by real-time satellite signals from the SC-105 SAR,” he explained.
In order to operate the new aircraft, several crew members have undergone training in Seville, Spain. Lt. Col. Martins explained that the course gave pilots and operators their first contact with the aircraft. “The course was conducted in two phases. First, six pilots and six electronic, electrical, and communications specialists spent two months in Seville receiving theoretical training and taking part in airborne activities. Subsequently, in an extension of the theoretical training, six more specialists also spent two months in Spain.”
According to Lt. Col. Martins, the 2º/10º GAV has been operating C-295 aircraft since 2009, so the pilots and graduates chosen to undergo training are instructors and operational crews of the aircraft. “Training is focused on the difference between the two models, especially with regard to their onboard mission equipment.” Training is being conducted in three phases - two in Seville and one in Brazil, within the squadron itself.
According to Communications Technical Sergeant Pedro Henrique de Castro Antunes, who took the Mission System Operation course in Seville, the greatest barrier was the language. “The dynamics of the course required us to pay a great deal of attention to each explanation given by the instructors. But we had already gotten used to it by the second week. At the end of the training modules in the last week of the course, we had flight training, where we were able to put the knowledge we had acquired in the classroom to the test.”
The third phase of the training is to be provided by Airbus instructors on the Pelican Squadron base, after delivery of the first aircraft. According to Lt. Col. Martins, the course is expected to start in early August. “This last phase will include theoretical training of another six pilots and six specialists, as well as supplementation of the aerial instruction of the personnel who started their training in Seville.” The third phase will be concluded with maintenance training in the new systems for all the specialists who took part in the three phases of the program. “By October of this year, all crew members will be fully trained,” Lt. Col. Martins said.
Sixty years of operations
The 2º/10º GAV, one of FAB’s oldest air units, will celebrate its 60th year of operation in December. The Pelican Squadron is responsible for search and rescue, combat search and rescue, aeromedical evacuation, aerial logistics and transportation, in-flight emergency assistance and aerial infiltration and exfiltration. Its area of responsibility is approximately 22 million square kilometers.
The unit operates with 120 airborne personnel, including pilots, mechanics, special equipment operators, radio operators, medics, nurses, rescue parachutists and SAR observers. It operates H-1H and SC-105 Amazonas aircraft, which will begin to be replaced by the H-36 Caracal and the SC-105 Amazonas SAR, respectively in the second half of 2017.
According to the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Martins, the 2º/10º GAV is the gold standard in the provision of search and rescue services. “When it turns 60, the 2º/10º GAV will be operating the latest in aviation technology worldwide, with H-36 Caracal helicopters and the SC-105 Amazonas SAR, which will enable us to enhance our probabilities of finding our search objectives, either visually or electronically, and to perform rescues at any time, or in any weather conditions.”
The officer explained that the squadron will gain greater reach in the fulfillment of its mission. “The H-36 will have in-flight refueling capability. While we know find ourselves at the same level with the best air forces in the world in terms of our doctrine, these new assets will place FAB alongside countries such as the United States, Canada, France, and England in the provision of search and rescue services.”