The first interim maritime helicopter, the CH-148 Cyclone, arrived at 12 Wing Shearwater, N.S. to support training of Canadian Forces aircrew and technicians for the Maritime Helicopter Project. (Sikorsky)
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VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Sikorsky hopes to recoup some of the financial losses from the troubled Canadian maritime helicopter program through a contract amendment that assures it more money to maintain the new fleet.
Additional amendments, approved by the Canadian government, also provide for some of the stated requirements for the Cyclone helicopters to be dropped.
But Canadian procurement and military officials maintain that the June 18 deal is still good for the Royal Canadian Air Force and will produce a state-of-the art maritime helicopter.
Sikorsky, which was to have delivered all 28 Cyclones by 2011, has now agreed to provide helicopters starting in 2015. Those helicopters, however, will have reduced capabilities and will need to be upgraded between 2018 and 2021.
The amended contract will see the cost of in-service support for the fleet increase from CAN $3.2 billion (US $3 billion) to $5.7 billion. That contract will run until 2038.
Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson said the in-service support deal represents a “win-win-win situation” for the company and Canada. He noted that the cost for the support contract is based on the original 2004 pricing rates submitted by Sikorsky. Not only is that beneficial to Canada, but it provides certainty in support costs for an extended period, he added.
“The extension also provides Sikorsky the opportunity to offset some of the recently announced losses as it provides the Canadian defense forces with world-class support for the world’s most capable maritime helicopter,” Jackson said.
Sikorsky did not provide financial data on how much of the losses the new deal would allow it to recoup.
Sikorsky has yet to deliver any Cyclones to Canada under the original contract that has resulted in $88.6 million in damages to Canada for late delivery.
Sikorsky’s parent company, United Technologies, noted a loss of US $56 million in 2011 and another of US $157 million in 2012, both related to the Cyclone project.
Canada is the first customer for the Cyclone.
Sikorsky originally signed the contract in 2004 to build the Cyclones, a maritime variant of its S-92. But problems with the project surfaced shortly after work began in 2005-2006.
In a report on the status of the Cyclone project released in October 2010, Canada’s then-Auditor General Sheila Fraser pointed out that the Department of National Defence (DND) failed to assess the risks involved with what was a developmental aircraft.
The in-service support contract includes the construction of a new training facility equipped with simulators, associated logistical support and long-term maintenance, and ongoing support of the maritime helicopters.
Since Sikorsky owns the intellectual property for the helicopter, maintenance work can be done only by the company, said Pierre-Alain Bujold, spokesman for Public Works, the government department that handles procurement.
The new deal also contains other breaks for Sikorsky. It will not have to produce helicopters with a 30-minute run-dry capability. That capability means the aircraft must continue flying for that time even if it loses engine oil in flight.
A self-starting system for the helicopter in extreme cold conditions has been dropped, as well as a system to automatically deploy life rafts in emergency situations.
Tina Crouse, a DND spokeswoman, said Sikorsky has made modifications to the gear box of the Cyclone to safeguard against a total loss of lubrication. “This has been accepted by the [Air Force] as there is no impact to overall operational capabilities and will not risk crew safety,” she added.
The Air Force also noted that life rafts can be manually deployed and that the aircraft can be started in extreme cold conditions using an outside power source.
Under the new agreement, the Air Force says it will receive capability enhancements to give Cyclone crews better situational awareness and ensure the helicopter can effectively communicate with other aircraft and personnel on the ground.
Crouse said the capability improvements include new tactical displays that will allow for simultaneous displaying of sensor data and the tactical situation; a “moving map” which improves the presentation of geospatial information and map orientation; and radar video control in which radar information can be controlled at more than one crew station. ■