The federal government is modernizing and growing its CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue fleet.
Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan was in Comox Thursday to announce investments to strengthen and increase the helicopter fleet used by 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron.
Through the investments announced, the fleet will receive at least two additional helicopters and be upgraded to extend its life to at least 2042.
“As search and rescue personnel, you are always ready to deploy, in some of the most extreme conditions on this planet, and collectively, you do this thousands and thousands of times each year,” Sajjan said outside of a hangar at 19 Wing Comox.
The CH-149 Cormorant provides a helicopter capability that allows search and rescue crews to conduct operations in areas not accessible by other helicopter fleets.
Sajjan explained the enhancement will include upgrades to navigation, communication and flight recorder systems, improved sensor capability and in-cabin wireless communication, new avionics suite and upgrades to the AW101-612 design including air frames.
Additionally, the fleet will grow from 14 to 16 Cormorants, although in a question period following the announcement, Sajjan could not confirm which squadrons will receive the additional helicopters.
The mid-life upgrade project is valued at up to $1.39 billion.
Currently, Cormorants are currently based at 19 Wing Comox, 9 Wing Gander and 14 Wing Greenwood.
“Every year, the Royal Canadian Air Force flies about 1,000 missions in support of search and rescue, a core mission of the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Lt.-Gen. A.D. Meinzinger, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force. “These upgrades to the CH-149 Cormorant, and an increase in fleet size ensures the RCAF will continue to deliver search and rescue services in the challenging Canadian environment.”
The project office will conduct this work with Leonardo S.p.A. in partnership with IMP Aerospace, and CAE.
Implementation for the mid-life upgrade is planned for 2020, with the delivery of the first upgraded Cormorant expected in 2022.