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The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is to get at least two more Leonardo CH-149s as part of the Canadian government’s $1.39 billion mid-life upgrade for its Cormorant fleet.
Announcing the move Aug. 22 in Comox, British Columbia, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the upgrades to the existing fleet of 14 Cormorants, which are primarily used for search-and-rescue (SAR) operations, would extend their life to at least 2042.
The upgrade program will bring the Cormorants to the latest AW101-612 standard, currently being delivered to Norway to provide that country’s new search-and-rescue fleet. The capability enhancements and equipment improvements in the upgrade include upgraded avionics in a new glass cockpit; new sensors, radar and search enhancement technology; more powerful digitally-controlled engines; wireless in-cabin communications; LED lighting; and rescue hoist upgrades.
“Canadians rely on the women and men of the Royal Canadian Air Force to conduct successful search-and-rescue operations in challenging circumstances,” said Sajjan. “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.”
The upgrade program also includes synthetic training solutions delivered by CAE, including Canada’s first AW101 full motion simulator. Other companies working to deliver the upgrade include IMP Aerospace and Defence, GE Canada (which will provide the new engines), and Collins Aerospace (which will provide the new cockpit displays and avionics).
“Every year, the Royal Canadian Air Force flies about 1,000 missions in support of search and rescue, a core mission of the Canadian Armed Forces,” said LGen A.D. Meinzinger, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force. “These upgrades to the CH-149 Cormorant, and an increase in fleet size ensures the RCAF will continue to deliver search-and-rescue services in the challenging Canadian environment.”
Canada’s Cormorant fleet began service in 2000, and are currently based at 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia; 9 Wing Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador; and 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia. In 2005, CH-149s from the Trenton main operating base were redistributed to those three bases, but with the addition of at least two CH-149s to the fleet, the type will return to Trenton and replace Bell CH-146 Griffons in the SAR role.
Leonardo said the upgrade program will be delivered with “no interruption or reduction” in Canada’s rotary search-and-rescue capabilities.