No Joy in Chopperville

CH-148 Cyclone

CH-148 Cyclone

The world bristles with ASW helicopters, from the AW-101 Merlin to the NH-90 to the Seahawk, all of them capable, proven designs. Of course, the Canadian DND has never felt any obligation to go with the cost-effective, proven solution- that’s why Canada chose none of the above and instead opted for the CH-148 Cyclone, a variant of the Sikorsky S-92, which has never been used in the role before.

This saga goes back to the waning days of the Cold War, when the Mulroney government ordered the then- EH-101 to replace Canada’s ageing Sea Kings. With the fall of the Soviet Union, such “unnecessary” spending became an election issue, and the order was promptly cancelled by the incoming Liberal government. After ten years and not a few Sea King crashes, it was realised that we actually did need a new helicopter.

Now, not for the first time, it seems clear that not only is developing a Canada-specific ASW helicopter an enormous and unnecessary waste of money, but Sikorsky can’t deliver the goods. Delivery was to have begun in 2008, and so far, all that’s been delivered are four helicopters that can’t perform their mission functions. The Ministry of Public Works has initiated an independent review of the program.

It is likely Canadian taxpayers will still be feeding the maw of this tragicomic beast of a procurement program for decades to come. But as the Sea King approaches its fiftieth birthday, it’s time to explore other options, for the sake of the crews if nothing else.

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2 thoughts on “No Joy in Chopperville

  1. AFG says:

    The saga of the CMHP has been focused so far in the late deliveries. However nobody has pay attention to the quality and reliability of the aircrafts. I think Public Works and DND should begin to assess the quality of the workmanship and the suppliers by reviewing common indexes of quality such as the Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ) and the suppliers rate of rejections.

    • The problem has never been with the supplier, which has a very long history of producing reliable helicopters. If we had simply bought Sikorsky’s existing Seahawk (or any other existing ASW helicopter), this saga would have been (cheaply) resolved long since. Instead, we stupidly asked them to create a new heavy ASW helicopter just for us, with a limited production run, no partner nations and no prospects of future sale abroad. This is the kind of program that European countries would create a multinational partnership for. What motivation does Sikorsky have to care about this dead mule of a program or put its own money toward fixing whatever issues have cropped up in design and testing, especially with the Seahawk production lines heating up again and the forthcoming massive attack/utility helicopter competition? At this point, they probably want us to cancel.

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