As part of its undertaking in equipping the Canadian Armed Forces through defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged, Canada is investing in the search and rescue fleet of CH-149 Cormorant helicopters. 

Recently in Comox, British Columbia, Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan announced that the CH-149 fleet will “receive at least two additional helicopters and be upgraded to extend its life to at least 2042.” The work will be done by Leonardo S.p.A. in partnership with IMP Aerospace, and CAE. 

The CH-149 Cormorant provides the capability of performing search and rescue (SAR) operations in areas not accessible by other helicopter fleets. By upgrading this capability Canada is ensuring that it has a reliable fleet of helicopters to handle search and rescue services.

Minister Sajjan said that these enhancements will ensure that search and rescue crews have the right equipment to continue providing these life-saving services.

The Department of National Defence through the National Search and Rescue Program is responsible to respond to aeronautical incidents, maritime incidents, and co-ordinate the aeronautical and maritime SAR system. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has the responsibility to maintain a SAR response capable of reaching those in distress anywhere in Canada at any given time.

“Through this procurement, we are extending the service life of the Cormorant fleet until 2042 and augmenting the number of aircraft available to ensure Canada’s ability to respond to incidents and keep Canadians safe,” said Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility. 

Through the Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade project, which is valued at up to $1.39 billion, the CH-149s will be upgraded to the AW101-612 design. This model was recently procured by Norway for its search and rescue missions. Utilizing an already set configuration will hasten work on this project considerably. 

The Commander of the RCAF, LGen Meinzinger said that these upgrades will ensure that the RCAF will continue to deliver about 1,000 search and rescue missions every year.