Posts Tagged ‘Cyclone helicopter’


January 28, 2010


By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

The Politics of Procurement: Military Acquisition in Canada and the Sea King Helicopter

By Aaron Plamondon

254 pages

Publisher: UBC Press

ISBN-10: 0774817143

ISBN-13: 978-0774817141

With black and white photos

In The Politics of Procurement, University of Calgary military historian Aaron Plamondon skillfully lays out the multi-decade saga of the Defence Department’s quest to replace the air force’s aging Sea King helicopters.

Plamondon argues that the procurement of military weapons and equipment in Canada has often been controlled by partisan political considerations and not by a clear desire to increase the capability of the Canadian Forces. As a result, he maintains that Canada has often failed to be effective in the design, production, or even the purchase, of weapons and equipment.

Plamondon touches on some early Canadian military equipment procurements to prove his point but his prime example to argue his case is the Sea King helicopter procurement.

It is probably the most famous or (infamous) military procurement of recent time. The EH-101 was originally selected in the early 1990s to replace the Sea Kings but that contract was cancelled by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien when he came to power in 1993. Chrétien had made the EH-101 an election issue and he cited the helicopter as an example of how the Conservative government was poorly using taxpayer’s dollars. His government paid $478 million in cancellation fees to scuttle the deal.

The military had to restart the process to buy a Sea King replacement, with the project divided into two elements, the acquisition of a search and rescue helicopter and the eventual purchase of a maritime helicopter.

In 1998 the winning search and rescue aircraft was selected but much to the embarrassment of the Chrétien government, the Canadian Forces had selected the EH-101 variant, the Cormorant.

After that there were more delays on the purchase of the maritime helicopter,  allegations of political meddling and legal battles.

Plamondon’s coverage follows the early days of the Sea King replacement program to Chrétien’s cancellation of the EH-101 and on to the purchase of the Cormorant. The book also takes the reader into the current controversial and much delayed Cyclone maritime helicopter project.

The strength of the book is that it ties together the story of the helicopter procurement over many years. Plamondon uses DND documents obtained through the Access to Information process, records from the National Archives and DND’s history branch, interviews with former procurement officials as well as news articles from over the years about the EH-101 and Cyclone acquisitions (including some of this writer’s articles – ones I had forgotten I had penned since the Sea King replacement stretches back more than two decades).

The book is a very good read for anyone interested in Canadian defence policy and a must read for those studying procurement issues.

One suggestion, however, for readers. Unless you are independently wealthy I would take a pass on hardcover version of this book which costs $85. Instead try to get the more reasonably priced softcover version at $32.95. UBC Press says the publication date for the paperback is July.



November 7, 2009

Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the first Canadian Forces CH-148 Cyclone will arrive in Canada shortly.




MacKay, recently in Halifax, said that a Cyclone helicopter is expected at 12 Wing Shearwater soon (some in the defence community have suggested it could possibly arrive within weeks).




Jay Paxton, MacKay’s press secretary confirmed that the minister said that the first Cyclone would “soon” arrive. However, Paxton said that MacKay did not outline a specific timetable for the delivery or mention that it could be “within weeks.” Paxton did not provide further details on the delivery schedule.




The government had originally announced in December 2008 that the first Cyclone helicopter would be delivered in November 2010.




That is still a year from now, so if this original schedule is maintained then MacKay is arguably stretching the phrase “soon.”




Sikorsky did not respond to a Defence Watch request for comment.




The first 19 helicopters delivered to the Canadian Forces will be designated as Interim Maritime Helicopters (IMH). These IMH aircraft will be fully functional and able to conduct testing and evaluation and training for MH maintenance and air crews, yet will not be fully compliant with the delivery contract, according to DND. Delivery of the first fully capable MH aircraft that meets all contract specifications will be in June 2012, at which point the previous IMH aircraft will then be retrofitted.




Training of MH air and ground crews to operate the Cyclone will begin in 2010, while operational testing and evaluation will be carried out with the new Cyclone aircraft in order to verify and validate the operational capabilities of the aircraft prior to its release to service, DND has noted in its backgrounder on the Cyclone.




The delivery has long been anticipated.




In July 5, 2007, Capt Erik Weigelin, Project Officer, HOTEF (Shearwater’s Helicopter Operational Test & Evaluation Facility) wrote this for the Air Force:




“The much-anticipated arrival of the CH148 Cyclone to 12 Wing draws ever nearer, and preparations for its delivery continue at a rapid pace at Shearwater’s Helicopter Operational Test & Evaluation Facility. HOTEF is charged with conducting Initial Operational Test and Evaluation of Sikorsky’s newest helicopter to ensure it is fully capable of meeting the needs of the operational frontline crews who will man it, as well as the needs of the training squadron who will prepare those crews.



For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at: