Cormorant upgrade gets the green light [CANSEC18D2]

31 May 2018

Led by OEM Leonardo, Team Cormorant has been given Government of Canada approval to proceed with the Cormorant Mid-Life Update (CMLU) programme. The team includes current Cormorant in-service support provider IMP Aerospace, engine supplier General Electric Canada, training partner CAE and avionics company Rockwell Collins Canada.

Since 2002, the AW101/CH-149 Cormorant has provided the Royal Canadian Air Force with a search and rescue capability (SAR), but the type is due for an upgrade to keep it in service until 2040 and beyond. At the same time, the RCAF is also seeking to expand the fleet to up to 21 aircraft, so that long-range SAR cover can be extended across all of the air force’s SAR bases, including CFB Trenton, which lacks a long-range asset.

Having been selected to proceed with the CMLU, Team Cormorant is now in negotiations regarding the details of the programme. For the update element, the RCAF is aiming to raise 14 existing aircraft to the AW101-612 standard, as selected by Norway. This includes a Leonardo Osprey multipanel 360° AESA surveillance radar system, AWAC 200 four-axis digital Automatic Flight Control System, two rescue hoists, searchlight, a cellphone detection system, electro-optical/infrared device, and a fully integrated avionics and mission system with five-screen flight deck.

Yet to be decided is the issue of the additional aircraft, with up to seven required. There are three options on the table, and Leonardo is assisting with the options analysis. One option is to purchase new aircraft outright, while another is to lease new-build aircraft from the manufacturer.

The third option is to refurbish some of the fleet of nine aircraft that were bought in 2011 as “assembled spares” from the US following the termination of the VH-71 Kestrel Presidential helicopter programme.

These aircraft are held in storage at Halifax by IMP Aerospace.

Leonardo has yet to perform a detailed survey to assess their condition, but they have been well maintained since their arrival in Canada. IMP Aerospace could be the location of an assembly line if new aircraft are procured, although the first machines would be completed at Leonardo’s plant in Yeovil, England. A new full-mission simulator from CAE is required under the CMLU project, which would most likely be installed at Comox as part of the SAR centre of excellence so that it can be networked with the fixed-wing search and rescue training systems to permit combined CC‑295/CH-149 mission training.

One element not included in the CMLU agreement is in-service support (ISS). IMP Aerospace is the current provider with a contract that runs until 2021. A post-CMLU ISS contract may be made open to bidding.

Leonardo and Team Cormorant are also committed to working with Canada’s aerospace and defence industries to develop a robust value proposition programme through industrial and technological benefits (ITBs), delivering high-value benefits to Canada in support of areas of key strategic interest to the country.

Leonardo has a demonstrated track record of outstanding ITB performance, delivering 121 per cent of its obligation on the original AW101 Cormorant acquisition contract two years ahead of schedule.

Since then, Leonardo has continued to support Canada’s aerospace and defence sector, procuring more than C$1.5 billion in Canadian goods and services for its civil and military helicopter programmes around the world. Underlining an increased commitment to the nation is the opening of a country office in Ottawa this summer.

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