Canada to Expand and Modernize Its CH-149 Cormorant Search and Rescue Helicopter Fleet

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is expanding and modernizing its CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue (SAR) helicopter fleet, Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan announced in Comox, British Columbia.

Through the investments announced, the fleet will receive at least two additional helicopters and be upgraded to extend its life to at least 2042 through the Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade (CMLU) project valued at up to $1.39 billion.

With the CMLU project, the CH-149s (Canadian Forces designation for the AgustaWestland AW101) will be upgraded to the AW101-612 design which is the helicopter model recently procured by Norway for their search and rescue missions. The upgrades include modernized engines, glass cockpit display system, navigation, communication and a digital automatic flight control system; improved sensor capability and synthetic training solutions and more. Using an already established configuration accelerates the project considerably.

The CMLU project will be conducted by a team led by Leonardo and comprising of IMP Aerospace and Defence, CAE, GE Canada, Collins Aerospace and other smaller Canadian suppliers. The project is currently in its definition phase, the implementation is planned for 2020, and the delivery of the first upgraded Cormorant expected in 2022.

Leonardo S.p.A. is the CH-149 Cormorant’s original equipment manufacturer, and IMP Aerospace the in-service support contractor. CAE will deliver Canada’s first AW101 full motion simulator and other synthetic training capabilities. GE Canada will provide the new engines and Collins Aerospace will provide the new cockpit displays and avionics.

Canada’s Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy (ITB) applies to this project which requires the contractor, Leonardo, to undertake economic activity in Canada equal to the value of the contract, which will provide opportunities to develop key industrial capabilities in Canada. Other Canadian suppliers will be engaged through the robust ITB and Value Proposition program.

“Canadians rely on the women and men of the Royal Canadian Air Force to conduct successful search and rescue operations in challenging circumstances. These enhancements to the CH-149 Cormorant fleet will ensure that search and rescue crews have the right equipment to continue providing these life-saving services”, said Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence.

In 2005, CH-149s from the Trenton main operating base were redistributed to Gander, Greenwood, and Comox. With the addition of at least two CH-149s to the fleet, Cormorants will return to Trenton and replace CH-146 Griffons in the SAR role. CH-149s are currently based at 19 Wing Comox, 9 Wing Gander, and 14 Wing Greenwood.

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