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Canada to take December decision on SAR aircraft -sources

| MONTREAL

MONTREAL Nov 24 Canada's federal government is expected to take a decision in early December on new fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft, with Airbus Group SE's C-295 and Leonardo Aircraft's C-27J Spartan emerging as front-runners, two aerospace industry sources familiar with the matter said.

The federal Treasury Board is expected on Dec. 8 to authorize the government to enter into a contract with the winning bidder for the purchase and in-service support of aircraft, a third industry source said on Thursday.

All three sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is not public and the timing of the Treasury Board decision could be changed.

The value and number of aircraft in the procurement have not yet been made public, a spokesman for Canada's National Defence Department said. The value of the deal, including the acquisition and in-service support, has been estimated in media reports at about C$3 billion ($2.22 billion).

Embraer's KC-390 is also part of the competition, but the aircraft is not expected to win because the program is still in development and Canada's government wants an aircraft that is already certified, two of the sources said.

The Canadian government has said the SAR aircraft procurement will allow the Royal Canadian Air Force to replace its current fixed-wing fleet of six CC-115 Buffalo aircraft and 13 CC-130H Hercules aircraft that are being used in Canada for search-and-rescue missions.

As the world's second-largest country by land mass, Canada's search-and-rescue responsibility extends over more than 18 million square km (6.9 million square miles) of land and sea.

A spokeswoman for Canada's Treasury Board declined to comment on Thursday because the proceedings are considered confidential.

A spokesman for Canada's procurement minister could not immediately be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, Canada unveiled plans to buy 18 Boeing Co Super Hornets as a stopgap measure while it prepared an open five-year competition to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets.

($1 = 1.3487 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Allison Lampert; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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