The Canadian federal government has announced plans to extend the life of its CH-149 helicopter fleet until at least 2040.
The announcement, which came via Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), outlined a proposed sole-source agreement with Leonardo that would see the CH-147 Cormorant fleet either upgraded, modified or replaced. The upgraded Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) search and rescue aircraft, which is currently a variant on the AW101, will be based on the new Norwegian AW101-612 rotary wing search-and-rescue model.
The RCAF has been analysing the best option for its fleet for several years, looking at several other manufacturers. However, it has decided that the best action will be to upgrade and renew the current fleet. The project secured funding in June 2017.
“The CH-149 has proven to be an excellent search-and-rescue asset for the [RCAF]. The fleet has been outstanding in covering the required range and providing the cabin capacity necessary to successfully deliver search-and-rescue in a country the size of Canada, often flying in very harsh environments which include demanding icing conditions,” said Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) in the letter.
The analysis from the DND found that the current CH-149 could still be a viable SAR asset for the country until 2040, noting especially that introducing a new aircraft could increase pressures on RCAF aircrew flight training.