Canada's Leading Defence Magazine




In this issue of CDR, we present a Cover Story on TEAM CORMORANT, the IMP/Leonardo led solution to a CH-149 Cormorant SAR helicopter upgrade, and as you will learn from Joetey Attariwala’s incisive piece, it is a critically important program that would provide Canada and Canadians with a much more complete Search and Rescue package and at a very affordable price.

The innovative plan is to utilize the VH-71 Kestrel helicopters (which are currently being warehoused at an IMP hangar in Halifax) that were received when the assets of the former US presidential helicopter program were acquired by Canada in 2011 at a bargain basement price. The original idea was to simply use the Kestrels for much needed parts and components but, because the VH-71 Kestrel platform is very similar to Canada’s CH-149 Cormorant, it became clear that there was an opportunity there to upgrade and also modernize the Cormorant fleet by bringing the Kestrels up to a modern SAR standard.

So, OEM, Leonardo (formerly AgustaWestland) and support provider IMP Aerospace and Defence, have reformed Team Cormorant to bid for the Cormorant Mid-Life Update (CMLU) requirement with a very creative and cost-effective package that includes some key partners like GE (engines), CAE (training and simulation) and Rockwell Collins (avionics).

Originally, AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) supplied 15 AW101-519 helicopters to the RCAF and the aircraft entered service in 2000 as the CH-149 Cormorant, with Halifax-based IMP Aerospace providing a full ISS package to the fleet, but what you will learn in this story is that, with the IMP solution the CH-149 will again be able to operate out of CFB Trenton, where currently only the CH-146 Griffon is providing SAR service with much less range and capability than the CH-149 Cormorant would offer.

This will be a huge boost for CFB Trenton and for Canada’s SAR program overall, providing much more effective and extensive coverage. The Team Cormorant solution is intended to update the CH-149 Cormorant fleet and provide another 25 years of service in a search and rescue (SAR) role. An RFP for CMLU is expected next year (2018), with a contract award slated for 2019. Nine Kestrel aircraft were originally included in the spare parts deal but now these assets could be put into service with as many as seven of the aircraft returned to airworthiness allowing for an expanded fleet of CH-149 Cormorants.

Most importantly, as you will learn from our Cover Story, the Team Cormorant bid is structured so as to retain full existing operat­ing availability during the upgrade process.

We urge you to read our very informative Cover Story in this issue of CDR to learn all the details on how the Team Cormorant solu­tion for CMLU will bring increased SAR capa­bility to the RCAF at a very reasonable cost.



As we write this missive, the government has just announced plans to purchase 18 used Australian fighter jets that are the same age as Canada’s CF-18s at a cost of $500 million, and if we have not learned our lesson about buying used equipment from the Victoria- Class submarine debacle, then someone hasn’t been paying attention. One is tempted to conjecture that the Aussies saw us coming.

The philosopher, George Santayna said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes.” And, let’s be honest, this IS a mistake on many levels.

Alan Williams is a contributor to CDR magazine and a former ADM MAT who was responsible for all DND procurement and he has called the purchase, “… absolutely, totally, nonsensical.” Williams has been quoted as saying, “There is no need to have interim jets. There is no need to waste billions of dollars, no need to train people on different platforms. Even if you admit there is a gap — which I don’t think anyone seriously believes — the way to go about resolving it is exactly the opposite of what they are doing.”

And we totally agree. What the govern­ment should have done is moved forward with a full CF-18 replacement competition with much greater alacrity so as to allow the RCAF to have its replacement jet in service at the earliest possible date. Now, they will have to spend time and money bringing the replacement jets up to operational capability and they will not be in service until the early 2020s, right around the time Canada says it wants to have its new fighter jet in service (2025). So, how does this make sense?

Canada’s CF-18s are now undergoing upgrades that will allow them to fly until 2025 when the RCAF is expected to welcome the CF-18 replacement to the fleet. So, why we ask, is there this urgency to acquire the Aussie fighter jets?

Having said all that, CDR has already reached out to a number of fighter jet builders who are eager to tell their story about what they may have to offer Canada as a potential CF-18 replacement, so stay tuned to CDR for much more on this front in the New Year.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Please fill out the following information to be added to our newsletter distribution list.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.