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.