The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has been operating the AW101/CH-149 Cormorant since 2001, undertaking thousands of lifesaving search and rescue (SAR) missions in the most extreme and harsh environmental conditions, from coast to coast.
The Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade (CMLU) Project is included in Canada’s Strong, Secure and Engaged (SSE) Defence Policy as a key defense procurement program, and is currently in the ‘Definition Phase’.
The CMLU Project will:
- Extend the life of the Cormorant helicopter until 2040 and beyond;
- Return the Cormorant fleet to Canadian Forces Base Trenton as the primary SAR helicopter;
- Provide enhanced aircraft flight management, communication and navigation systems, complying with latest regulations;
- Address existing and projected obsolescence while incorporating maintainability and reliability enhancements;
- Introduce modern SAR mission sensors;
- Ensure there is no disruption to Cormorant rotary-wing SAR capability during the project; and
- Deliver industrial technological benefits to Canadian companies.
Low-risk upgrade utilizing an existing design
The CMLU solution will leverage the existing design and development work undertaken by Leonardo on the latest generation of the AW101 – the Norwegian All-Weather Search and Rescue Helicopter (NAWSARH) – which is currently being delivered to Norway.
Dominic Howe, Head of International Campaigns America and Canada at Leonardo Helicopters, commented: “From the outset, we have proposed a low-risk upgrade solution utilizing an existing design, which will provide the RCAF with much greater SAR capability and provide greater peace of mind to all Canadians across Canada.”
The CMLU Project includes augmentation of the fleet with a minimum of two additional helicopters enabling the return of the Cormorant helicopter to the Trenton Main Operating Base, which covers the Great Lakes region.
Using commercial off-the-shelf technology
The CMLU Project will include avionics, a new glass cockpit, the addition of the latest SAR sensors, including a surveillance radar, electro-optical infra-red (EO/IR) device, more powerful digitally-controlled engines, wireless in-cabin communications, LED lighting, rescue hoist upgrades, synthetic training solutions from CAE, which include: a training, a Full Mission Simulator and Rear Crew Trainer, among others.
‘Less search and more rescue’
“This isn’t a development program – it’s using commercial off-the-shelf technology,” added Howe. “This is utilizing the design and development undertaken for the NAWSARH project, which will provide Canada with a low-risk, and value for money solution; it also provides long-term benefits with a drive towards a standardized common configuration across multiple AW101 operators.
“The significant capability the CMLU Project will deliver, through the introduction of the surveillance radar, EO/IR device, the Mobile Phone Detection and Localization System and other updated systems, will ensure less search and more rescue.”