Nearly all of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) 12 Wing Shearwater Maritime fleet of CH-148 Cyclone helicopters are undergoing repairs after cracks were found in the tails of the aircraft. After the cracks were found on one of the Sikorsky-made helicopters during routine maintenance on November 26, other aircraft in the squadron were inspected and cracks were found in three more, according to the statement. The RCAF reported 19 of its total fleet of 23 CH-148 aircraft were found to have the cracking problem. Two were found to have no cracking and the remaining two are in long-term maintenance and have not yet been inspected.
Sikorsky is working with the RCAF to make repairs, according to the department. RCAF experts estimate that the repairs to some of the aircraft will be completed in “the next few days.” While the entire fleet is encompassed within 12 Wing Shearwater, 17 of the aircraft are based in Nova Scotia and six in Pat Bay, B.C., to support the Royal Canadian Navy’s Pacific fleet. The issue with the Cyclones has had some impact on flood-relief operations in B.C., where helicopters from 443 Squadron, operating from their base at Patricia Bay, were supposed to provide support, the statement said. It said other air assets have been able to fill the gap instead.
The Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone is a twin-engine, multi-role shipboard helicopter developed by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation for the Canadian Armed Forces. A military variant of the Sikorsky S-92, the CH-148 is designed for shipboard operations and replaced the venerable CH-124 Sea King, which was in operation from 1963 to 2018. The search for a Sea King replacement originally began in the 1980s. The Cyclone is operational with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as of 2018 and is to conduct anti-submarine warfare (ASW), surveillance, and search and rescue missions from Royal Canadian Navy warships.
The CH-148 Cyclone has been the subject of scrutiny in the past over the procurement process and cost. The aircraft took more than a decade to enter service, and its cost soared from an original budget of $3.2 billion to $5.7 billion. In April 2020, six crew members on board a CH-148 died when their aircraft plunged into the Ionian Sea off Greece as it was returning to HMCS Fredericton after a flypast. The conflict between manual control and the aircraft’s automatic flight controller system caused an unanticipated “bias” in the helicopter’s fly-by-wire (FBW) computers, prompting the aircraft to nose dive at full speed into the ocean as it was returning to HMCS Fredericton after a flypast.