Oh, Canada

Andrew Healey's picture

Don't the Canadians have their maritime helicopters sorted yet? Their doughty Sea King crews have been due a new platform for over a quarter of a century now. In 1993 the replacement was due to be 50 EH, now AW101s but a Prime Ministerial candidate, Jean Crétien, turned the acquisition into something of a political football. He declared they were too sophisticated for the required task and promised to cancel the deal if elected. And so it transpired -- at a cost of $Can500 million or so in cancellation charges. The 101, by the way, had already been selected by (and is now in service with) the Coastguard.

Ten years later, and much to AgustaWestland's disgust, they went for a smaller fleet of Sikorsky S92 variants, dubbed the Cyclone. Thereafter I confess the story slipped from my radar until I read via the Chronicle Herald that, not only have no 'new' helicopters been delivered but the CAF, having refitted two frigates to handle the Cyclones, have been forced to reconfigure their rear ends once more to take the Sea King (of which they must surely not have many left).

The government is embroiled with Sikorksy over a series of programme slips -- they should all have been in service by now -- but the consequence of all the shenanigans is that CAF crews are still flying the Sea Kings, often in challenging conditions and regularly on NATO operations. Their serviceability was an issue 20 years ago (read some damning user quotes here) so how many individual airframes are still up to the task? Not good for morale.


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