Aerial Warfare

Canada Launches C$1.2 Billion CH-149 Cormorant SAR Helicopter Upgrade


Canada Launches C$1.2 Billion CH-149 Cormorant SAR Helicopter Upgrade

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Royal Canadian Air Force AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant Medium SAR Utility Helicopter
Royal Canadian Air Force AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant Medium SAR Utility Helicopter

Canadian National Defence Minister Anita Anand visited IMP Aerospace in Enfield, Nova Scotia, and joined representatives from Leonardo U.K. Ltd., IMP Aerospace, and other partners, who announced that IMP Aerospace has received a major sub-contract for the Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade (CMLU) Project. The CMLU project will upgrade Canada’s CH-149 Cormorant fleet, which plays a critical role in our country’s Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. The fleet has been providing reliable and crucial service to Canada since 2001 – but requires upgrades to remain operationally effective. Thanks to a $1.168 billion contract awarded in December 2022 to Leonardo U.K. Ltd, Canada is upgrading its current Cormorant helicopter fleet to the most advanced version of the helicopter, and acquiring additional airframes/parts to increase our fleet size from 13 to 16 aircraft.

“The AW101/CH-149 “Cormorant” Search and Rescue helicopter fleet has been providing the Royal Canadian Air Force with a dependable SAR capability across Canada for over 20 years. This Mid-Life Upgrade programme will deliver a greater level of high-technology to support the all-weather SAR capability that the country deserves,” Gian Piero Cutillo, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters said.

“Through our upgrades to Canada’s Cormorant helicopter fleet, we are investing to keep Canadians safe and supporting good, middle-class jobs here in Canada. The CH-149 Cormorant helicopter is a critical asset for search and rescue operations in Canada,” The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence said.

Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade Project
Royal Canadian Air Force CH-149 Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade Project. (Photo by RCAF)

Minister Anand welcomed announcement by Leonardo U.K. Ltd. that IMP Aerospace and Defence has been sub-contracted to undertake the upgrade of 13 in-service AW101/CH-149 Cormorant Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters at its facility in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Under its sub-contract award, IMP will deliver 13 of the 16 upgraded Cormorants to Canada from its Halifax facilities. The first three helicopters will be completed at Leonardo’s United Kingdom facilities. IMP personnel will undertake on-the-job training in the United Kingdom to complete the build of the remaining 13 CMLU helicopters in Canada. Minister Anand noted that the CMLU project has the potential to contribute almost $79 million annually to Canadian GDP and 650 jobs annually for Canadian companies over a 12-year period – demonstrating our commitment to ensuring that national security and economic prosperity go hand in hand.

The AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant is the Canadian Forces designation for the AgustaWestland AW101 (formerly EH101), a helicopter used for air-sea rescue in Canada. Developed as a joint venture between Westland Aircraft in the UK and Agusta in Italy (now merged as Leonardo), the CH-149 is a medium-lift helicopter for military applications. Upgrading the CH-149 Cormorant fleet will ensure that these helicopters remain operational for decades to come – and the maintenance work required will also sustain good jobs in Greenwood and Halifax, Nova Scotia and Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador. The CMLU project ensure that we can continue to perform Search and Rescue (SAR) operations from Comox, B.C., Gander, Greenwood, and add to the SAR capacity from Trenton, Ont.

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