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 CAF 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 CAF is responsible for the effective operation of this coordinated aeronautical and maritime SAR system.

CAF's resources may also assist in ground SAR efforts, medical evacuations and other humanitarian incidents, if requested by the responsible provincial/territorial or municipal authority.

Learn how the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) supports search and rescue operations across regions of Canada.

Maintaining 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
  • 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

Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) 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 CAF aircraft, such as the CP-140 Aurora, have a secondary SAR role.

SAR technicians

The CAF 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.

“That Others May Live” is a motto long-embraced by SAR Techs that serve in the RCAF.

In tribute to sacrifices made by RCAF SAR Techs, Sergeant Mike Hall with the RCAF Band composed and recorded the song titled ‘That Others May Live’.  Feel free to share with friends and family.

That Others May Live - Lyrics

download icon       That Others May Live (MP3, 3.76 MB)

On a long and lonely highway out of town
The radio reports a brother down
We wipe away the tear
A thousand calls this year
Say a little prayer for next time around

Chorus:
Some will give that others may live
Some give all
They answer the call
Some they say
Just live for the day
They can lend a hand
To their brothers that fall

On a cold and snowy mountain far from home
In the darkness of a forest where men roam
On a deep and angry sea
That'll bring you to your knees
You can rest assured you'll never stand alone

Chorus;
Bridge;

Keep standing tall and true
So proud , so brave , so few
Just one thing left to do
We will remember you

Chorus;

© 2015 Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada as represented by the Minister of National Defence. All rights reserved. The music and lyrics of this song are protected by Canadian copyright law. The song may be downloaded to a personal computer and shared electronically, but it cannot be reproduced in any form and sold commercially, or used in any other manner that would amount to infringement under Canadian copyright law, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.

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 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

An orange aircraft with red markings ascends in a grey sky.

New FWSAR maintenance trainer arrives in Canada

Canada’s Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft Replacement project took an important step forward as the Aircraft Maintenance Trainer departed Seville, Spain, today to travel to Canada.
January 28, 2020

A man wearing a helmet and military flight suit adjusts the helmet worn by a person dressed as Santa Claus inside a large aircraft.

Santa takes a tiger by the tail

Santa Claus had the opportunity for a different type of flight from his normal sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer when he went on a familiarization flight with 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron.
December 11, 2019

The Boxtop 22 monument, photographed in August 2010.

Remembering the crash of Boxtop Flight 22

The fatal crash of a Hercules aircraft near Canadian Forces Station Alert led to the boldest air disaster rescue ever undertaken by the Canadian military in the High Arctic.
October 30, 2017

Search and Rescue training parachute jump. Stock photo not related to the accident.

CC130338 SAR Technician - Epilogue

The accident occurred during a 435 (Transport and Rescue) Squadron CC130H Hercules search and rescue (SAR) training mission.
March 8, 2017

Search and Rescue training parachute jump. Stock photo not related to the accident.

CC130338 SAR Technician - Epilogue - Flight Safety Investigation Report

The accident occurred during a 435 (Transport and Rescue) Squadron CC130H Hercules search and rescue (SAR) training mission.
March 8, 2017

SAR Tech parchuting from CC130 aircraft

SAR Technician - A Cat - Epilogue

In response to a distress call from two men in a small open boat in Hecla Strait, northeast of Igloolik, Nunavut, a Search and Rescue (SAR) CC130 aircraft from Trenton, call-sign Rescue 323 (R-323) was dispatched, arriving on scene at 1505 hours (hrs) local time.
October 28, 2011

Date modified: