Canada – Maritime Helicopter Project

The Maritime Helicopter (MH) project is a complex program that involves the delivery of 28 state-of-the-art, combat-capable CH-148 Cyclone helicopters, associated logistical and in-service support, spare parts, as well as modifications to the Halifax-class ships and construction of a new training facility equipped with a full training suite of flight, mission and maintenance simulators.

The new CH-148 Cyclone, in its final configuration, will be at the forefront of modern technology and one of the most capable maritime helicopters in the world. Progress continues to be made on delivery of the complex and sophisticated weapon system, and project milestones continue to be achieved as the Government, the Canadian Forces and the contractor collectively work towards delivering fully compliant helicopters starting in June 2012.

In early 2010, the first round of Ship/Helicopter Operating Limitations (SHOL) trials successfully tested and validated the design of the ship modifications of the hangar and flight deck for Cyclone compatibility and ensured they met the technical requirements specified in the contract. The SHOL trials also tested and validated the Canadian Recovery Assist Securing and Traversing (C-RAST) system, maintenance support, and defined safe flight parameters for future ship/helicopter operations in moderate sea states and weather conditions. This initial round of SHOL trial activity also developed standard operating procedures for ship and flight crew personnel. Subsequent SHOL trials will be conducted in extreme weather conditions.

Current Status

Mission software development is one of the most challenging aspects of the Cyclone program, due to its scope, complexity and importance to the operational roles of the helicopter. In the fall of 2009, Sikorsky advised the Government of potential difficulties delivering an interim helicopter with fully compliant mission system software by November 2010.

Since then, the Government and Sikorsky have worked together to find the best solution that would mitigate the impact on the Canadian Forces due to a delay on the delivery of the mission system software. A proposal to deliver an interim helicopter equipped with a preliminary version of the mission software system was put forward, and subsequently determined to be the best possible solution; the interim helicopter will still have all the operational capability necessary to achieve targeted progress for the Maritime Helicopter project. However, since the functionality of mission system software contained within the interim helicopters does not meet the requirements of the contract as written, the contract must be amended for the Government to take delivery of a redefined interim helicopter. Ultimate delivery of the fully compliant helicopters is not affected by the contract amendment and is on schedule for 2012 delivery.

Terms of the Contract Amendment

By signing the June 30, 2010 contract amendment, both the Government and Sikorsky agreed that Canada would take delivery of six interim helicopters with a preliminary version of the mission software starting in November 2010, thereby allowing the DND/CF to proceed with operational testing and training activities. It is important to note that DND’s training timeline will not be delayed by this. However, in return for Canada’s agreement on this point, the following concessions were made by Sikorski:

  • Withdrawal of an existing Sikorsky arbitration claim;
  • Investment by Sikorsky in additional Industrial and Regional Benefits of $80 million;
  • Benefits on future maritime helicopter sales payable to Canada that could amount to more than US$30 million;
  • Restructuring the established milestone payment schedule and liquidated damages clause. Liquidated damages, if applicable, will be applied for failure to deliver interim helicopters starting in November 2010, and for failure to deliver the fully compliant helicopters beginning in June 2012;
  • Reduced interim helicopter in-service support rates until acceptance of the fully compliant helicopters in June 2012; and,
  • Extending the in-service support until March 2028.

These concessions result in a significant net benefit to Canada.

Defining the Interim Helicopters

The interim helicopters will have partial mission capabilities. The interim helicopters will be fitted with all specified flight equipment and hardware and will include a preliminary version of the mission system software that will allow the majority of the sensors and weapon systems to be operated but not in a fully integrated fashion.

As defined in the amended contract, the interim helicopters will not have their final capability in only four areas:

  • Messaging functionality of tactical data exchange capability (an automated data-link capability that provides for the exchange of tactical data between designated units, including the ships and aircraft);
  • Mission flight endurance (21 minute deficiency);
  • Single engine operation at high temperature; and
  • The mission system software will be a preliminary version.

No operational or airworthiness requirements will be compromised with this approach. It is for this reason that DND’s training timelines will be unaffected.

Once delivery of the fully compliant helicopters begins in 2012, the interim helicopters will be retrofitted to be fully compliant and returned to DND/CF by December 2013. This will provide the Canadian Forces with a total fleet of 28 CH-148 fully compliant helicopters in accordance with all contractual specifications.

Role of the Interim Helicopters

The six interim helicopters will mitigate, as much as possible, the impact of the delay by ensuring that training and initial operational testing and evaluation can begin as soon as possible. Operational testing of the interim helicopters, with a preliminary version of the mission system software, will provide an excellent opportunity to evaluate the basic helicopter, the effectiveness of the in-service support, and training services.

The interim helicopters will not be deployed on operations. The interim helicopters will be used for initial cadre training, which provides training to sufficient aircrew and maintenance personnel to enable DND/CF to conduct the initial operational testing and evaluation (IOT&E). IOT&E is an essential period of testing to determine the most operationally effective employment of new equipment before fielding the system.

During IOT&E multiple aircraft systems can be assessed on their individual performance and the DND/CF can determine how to best integrate their capabilities into the overall weapon system for flying, fighting and supporting Cyclone operations. Furthermore, developmental procedures for the Cyclone’s flight and operations can be verified and subsequently modified if necessary early on in the transition program, enabling a smoother transition to the fully compliant helicopters.

The Cyclone represents a tremendous advancement in helicopter and mission system technology compared to the Sea King. Advanced exposure of these new capabilities will help make the transition to the new aircraft more effective and efficient when the fully compliant helicopters become available. By gaining early access to the Cyclone through the interim helicopters and associated support equipment and training devices, the Sea King community can begin a realistic, hands-on approach to transitioning to the highly sophisticated and more complex Cyclone helicopter and integrated support system.

Taking delivery of the interim helicopters will also ensure that crucial support mechanisms are put into place, such as supply chains for spare parts and maintenance processes and procedures. All the support infrastructure and maintenance processes need to be in place before the CH-148 Cyclone can be deployed on operations. By beginning this effort in November 2010 in advance of the delivery of fully compliant helicopters, it will allow the fully compliant helicopters to be deployed on operations sooner than if interim helicopters were not available.

The Sea King will continue to fly safe and productive Canadian Forces missions in its valuable maritime helicopter role until the fully compliant Cyclone helicopters are ready to be deployed.

Next Steps

DND/CF is currently preparing for the delivery of the interim helicopter. This extensive preparation effort includes securing the appropriate certification documentation; ensuring the training devices are functional and available; finalizing courseware and aircraft operating instructions and checklists for the initial training cadre; and ensuring the maintenance program is ready for training and follow-on flight operations. Initial training cadre involves the training of designated maintenance and aircrew personnel from 12 Wing Shearwater who will conduct the initial operational testing and evaluation of the interim helicopters and provide maintenance support.

DND/CF is also preparing to conduct the second round of SHOL trials in the coming months; the exact timing will be determined based on aircraft availability and program priorities. This portion of the trials will determine the full spectrum of flight parameters that will allow the helicopter to safely operate from the Halifax class ship in high winds, inclement weather and rough sea conditions.

Maritime Helicopter Project Background

In November 2004, the Government of Canada announced the signing of two separate but interrelated contracts with Sikorsky International Operations Inc. for the Maritime Helicopter project. The first contract, worth $1.8 billion, was for 28 fully integrated, certified and qualified helicopters with their mission systems installed, to replace the Canadian Forces CH-124 Sea King helicopter fleet. The second contract, valued at $3.2 billion, was for 20-years of in-service support for the helicopters, and included the construction of a training facility, as well as a simulator and training suite.

Delivery of the first helicopter was expected in early 2009; however in January 2008, Sikorsky formally claimed for schedule relief because of “excusable delays” thereby advising the government of a delay in the planned delivery date. PWGSC, along with DND, worked toward resolution with Sikorsky and, in December 2008, the contract was amended to reflect a new, tiered schedule with delivery of interim helicopters beginning in November 2010 and delivery of fully compliant helicopters beginning in June 2012.

The new CH-148 Cyclone, in its final configuration, will meet all of the performance requirements specified by the Canadian Forces and will be one of the most capable maritime helicopters in the world.

Department of National Defence, Kanada

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