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

Date modified: