The federal government will buy at least two more CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue helicopters and extend the life of the entire fleet to at least 2042, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced in Comox Thursday.
“Together with the fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft, the first of which will be delivered to Comox this year, our enhanced Cormorants will form a critical part of the Canadian Armed Forces search and rescue capabilities for decades to come,” Sajjan said.
The upgrade project is valued at up to $1.39 billion and will include upgrades to navigation systems, communication systems, and flight recorder systems of the 14 existing Cormorants. The CH-149s will be upgraded to the AW101-612 design which is the helicopter model recently procured by Norway for their search and rescue missions.
Using an already established configuration accelerates the project, according to the Department of National Defence.
The upgrades will be completed by Leonardo S.p.A. the CH-149 Cormorant’s original equipment manufacturer, and IMP Aerospace, in-service support contractor.
With the addition of at least two Cormorants to the fleet, the CH-146 Griffon in Trenton will be replaced by Cormorants for search and rescue. The Cormorants that were previously in Trenton were redistributed to Gander, N.L. Greenwood, N.S. and Comox.
The Coromorants first entered the RCAF in 2001. They are powered by three engines and are known for their long-range capability.
Work is planned for 2020 and delivery of the first upgraded Cormorant is expected to be in 2022. There is no word yet on where the new Coromorants will be stationed.