OTTAWA -- The Canadian military's long search for new rescue planes is nearly over as the federal government is formally showing off the first of 16 new aircraft on Canadian soil today.

The unveiling at Canadian Forces Base Comox, B.C., follows more than 15 years of controversy and start-stop effort to buy replacements for the ancient Buffalo and older-model Hercules aircraft used by the military to save Canadians.

That included Stephen Harper's Conservative government restarting the search for a new plane more than a decade ago after the military was accused of stacking the deck for the multibillion-dollar contract in favour of one particular plane.

Yet the arrival of the first of 16 new Airbus C-295 planes, which the government is dubbing the Kingfisher, does not mark the end of the ride as the Royal Canadian Air Force must still do months of tests on the new aircraft and train new search-and-rescue crews.

Troy Crosbie, who oversees military procurement at the Department of National Defence, says the Kingfisher fleet won't start to fly full missions until mid-2022 -- two years later than scheduled.

While the Buffalo fleet was scheduled to be retired five years ago, Crosbie says the military will keep flying them until at least next year alongside the Hercules, which were due to retire three years ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020.