Search and Rescue

In Canada, search and rescue (SAR) is a shared responsibility among federal, provincial/territorial and municipal organizations, as well as air, ground and maritime volunteer SAR organizations. There is a distinct organizational difference between the responsibility for ground SAR and that of aeronautical and maritime SAR.

Canadian Armed Forces’ Responsibilities

The Canadian Armed Forces has the primary responsibility of providing aeronautical SAR services (search for downed aircraft) and the Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for maritime SAR services. The Canadian Armed Forces are responsible for the effective operation of this coordinated aeronautical and maritime SAR system.

Canadian Armed Forces’ resources may also assist in ground SAR efforts, medical evacuations and other humanitarian incidents, if requested by the responsible provincial/territorial or municipal authority.

Maintaining the Aeronautical and Maritime SAR Capability

Successful SAR operations rely on, among other factors, having the right capabilities at the right time. These capabilities include the right equipment, highly-skilled personnel, a response posture, appropriate location of SAR resources, and procedures.

SAR squadrons have been strategically located throughout the country, according to the historical distribution of distress incidents in order to provide the most effective SAR response to the greatest number of potential incidents.

SAR Resources

The Royal Canadian Air Force wings, located across Canada, provide military air resources in response to approximately 1,000 annual SAR taskings.

The CH-149 Cormorant and CH-146 Griffon helicopters are the primary rotary-wing aircraft used to respond to SAR . They offer swift response times, powerful hover and hoist capabilities, and dedicated SAR personnel.

SAR fixed wing aircraft, such as the CC-115 Buffalo and CC-130 Hercules, offer dedicated SAR personnel and specialized equipment such as air-droppable survival kits, including life rafts and shelters.

Most other Canadian Armed Forces aircraft, such as the CH-124 Sea King and the CP-140 Aurora, have a secondary SAR role.

Search and Rescue Technicians: That Others May Live

The Canadian Armed Forces have approximately 140 search and rescue technicians (SAR techs). They are highly trained specialists who provide advanced pre-hospital medical care and rescue for aviators, mariners and others in distress in remote or hard-to-reach areas. These men and women are trained to a primary-care paramedic national standard with additional advanced skills.

SAR techs are land and sea survival experts who specialize in rescue techniques, including Arctic rescue, parachuting, diving, mountain climbing and helicopter rescue.

Read more about Canada’s national search and rescue program on the Canadian Joint Operations Command website.

Search and Rescue (SAR) Map
  • 442 Squadron Comox
    • CC-115 Buffalo
    • CH-149 Cormorant
  • JRCC Victoria
  • 435 Squadron Winnipeg
    • CC-130 Hercules
  • JRCC Trenton
  • 424 Squadron Trenton
    • CC-130 Hercules
    • CH-146 Griffon
  • MRSC Quebec
  • JRCC Halifax
  • 413 Squadron Greenwood
    • CC-130 Hercules
    • CH-149 Cormorant
  • 103 Squadron Gander
    • CH-149 Cormorant

SAR news

A big four-engine propeller aircraft sits on the tarmac while the sun sets behind it.

A little bit of Hercules history

The Hercules has served Canada and Canadians quite well throughout its long and diverse history, carrying just about anything and everything, supporting SAR missions, and conducting air-to-air refuelling.
November 17, 2020

Three aircraft flying in formation in a blue sky. The middle aircraft has propellers and is much bigger that the other two on its sides, which are jet fighters.

The Mighty Hercules celebrates 60 years in the RCAF

When Lockheed engineers and designers created the Hercules aircraft in the 1950s, it’s doubtful that they had any idea how versatile and iconic the plane would turn out to be and that it would one day celebrate 60 years of service in the RCAF.
October 14, 2020

A man wearing an orange jumpsuit and a blue hat looks outside the window of an aircraft.

When the standard is integrity: Most senior RCAF SAR Tech honoured to be part of that team

“I don’t count years, and I have no regrets. I love being a SAR Tech. It’s an honour to be part of that team,” says Sergeant André Hotton, who’s been a SAR Tech for thirty years, making him the most senior SAR technician in the RCAF.
October 13, 2020

The CC-295 Kingfisher search and rescue aircraft

Canada receives its first new fixed-wing search and rescue CC-295 aircraft

On September 25, 2020, the RCAF marked the arrival of the first aircraft of its future fixed-wing search and rescue fleet, which will be called the CC-295 Kingfisher.
September 25, 2020

An orange twin-propeller aircraft in flight

An overview of our search and rescue aircraft

SAR Technicians use many different kinds of equipment to do their job, but they rely on aircraft to transport them where they need to go to save lives. Here are the aircraft that Canadian SAR Technicians use in their everyday work.
September 24, 2020

Two men in orange coveralls lean on a bunk in an aircraft.

Woods hike not the ideal SAR

A ten-hour walking rescue tests the mettle of RCAF SAR Techs.
September 14, 2020

A man wearing an orange jump suit and a grey helmet holding a grey canister kneels on the open ramp of an aircraft flying over water.

The military SAR machine – complex and dedicated

The CAF SAR is an astoundingly complex, small and dedicated machine executing its daily mission with such quiet professionalism that these heroes walk amongst us largely unnoticed and uncelebrated.
September 9, 2020

A photo taken from the cockpit of a helicopter flying over water. Through the aircraft windshield, a ship can be seen. On the right, in the helicopter, is a man wearing a flight helmet.

Search and rescue means changing priorities in an instant

Officer Cadet (now captain) Victor Weston recounts how a routine flight rapidly became a full-blown search and rescue operation, a reality that SAR Techs face every day.
September 8, 2020

Two men and one woman wearing dark blue uniforms hold a citation.

What are the chances? NATO Meritorious Service Medal recipient Major Gillian Parker

Major Parker has fit a lot into almost 28 years in the CAF. Her latest achievement: the NATO Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding work during her posting to NATO Allied Air Command.
August 28, 2020

A big green and grey helicopter sits on rocks in an Arctic setting.

Vikings in the North: 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron’s first search and rescue mission

450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron was called upon to rescue people stranded on a small island in the Hudson Bay, near Puvirnituq, Québec.
July 29, 2020

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