The first interim maritime helicopter, the CH-148 Cyclone, arrived at 12 Wing Shearwater, Canada at May 13, 2011, to support training of Canadian Forces aircrew and technicians for the Maritime Helicopter Project. (Image © RCAF/Sikorsky)

Canada mad at Sikorsky, might choose Merlins over Cyclones

The first interim maritime helicopter, the CH-148 Cyclone, arrived at 12 Wing Shearwater, Canada at May 13, 2011, to support training of Canadian Forces aircrew and technicians for the Maritime Helicopter Project. (Image © RCAF/Sikorsky)
The first interim maritime helicopter, the CH-148 Cyclone, arrived at 12 Wing Shearwater, Canada on May 13, 2011, to support training of Canadian Forces aircrew and technicians for the Maritime Helicopter Project. (Image © RCAF/Sikorsky)

The Canadian government is furious at American helicopter builder Sikorsky for continuously not delivering the purchased and promised 28 CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopters. The Canadians now sent a team of experts to the UK to check out the Royal Navy’s new Agusta Westland AW101 Merlin Mk2s.

The political and technical storm around the Cyclone helicopters has now reached such a point that Sikorsky might face a cancellation of the project by the Canadians all together, despite already paid damages for the years of delay and problems with the new CH-148s. The Royal Canadian Air Force needs the new helicopters by yesterday, to replace beautiful but dinosaur Sikorsky CH-124 Sea Kings in service since 1963.

The Royal Canadian Navy currently faces the lack of a modern air asset that can enlarge the range and effectiveness of the fleet with military, UN or disaster-relief operations. The Cyclones, flown by the Air Force on behalf of the Navy, are destined to execute anti-submarine warfare (ASW), surveillance and search and rescue missions from the Canadian vessels. The old Sea Kings don’t meet current standards and show fatigue after decades of service.

Problems with the engines, with the mission gear and loads of other more minor issues have resulted in not a single CH-148 planned to be introduced in 2008 is currently in effective active service. There is a pre-version CH-148 for training purposes only, but that is about it.

The Cyclones are based on the Sikorsky S-92. Therefore the problems the Canadians are facing, seem to be more bad news for the US presidential helicopter project as well. The Pentagon wants a further developed version of the S-92 as the new POTUS ride.

A drop of the CH-148 and selection of the AW101 Merlin instead would be kind of special. In 1990 the Canadians ordered 50 EH101s on which the Merlins are based, but the deal was cancelled directly after elections by the then new government.

After initial problems with the Merlins in the UK, the Royal Navy now seems really happy with the new Mk2s. The Merlin option would make maintenance for the Canadians also easier, since the RCAF already flies 15 AW101 based CH-149 Cormorants bright yellow SAR helicopters.

© 2013 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger

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