Sikorsky delivered a fourth interim-configuration CH-148 Cyclone to 12 Wing at CFB Shearwater, Nova Scotia, on August 3, according to an update on the much-delayed Maritime Helicopter Project (MHP) released by the Department of National Defence (DND).
Photos: Department of National Defence
There are actually three Cyclones at Shearwater, as the first interim helicopter to be delivered, MH 806 in May 2011, was returned to Sikorsky in May this year for modifications. That leaves MH 805 and 808, delivered in June, and the latest to arrive, MH 807, to provide initial training for Royal Canadian Air Force aircrew and maintainers.
This is not how it was supposed to be.
When Sikorsky won the C$1.8 billion contract to supply 28 maritime helicopters in November 2004, with a military derivative of the S-92, deliveries were planned to begin in November 2008. But delays in developing the Cyclone led to the contract being amended in December 2008, and new delivery dates being set of November 2010 for interim-standard helicopters and June 2012 for fully compliant CH-148s. Neither date was met.
The DND and Sikorsky have been tight-lipped about the problems, frequently citing the fact that the contract is with a third entity, the Public Works and Government Services Canada procurement agency. But it is known that the General Electric CT7-8A engines had to be uprated, issues with fly-by-wire flight-control servos had to be resolved and mission-system software development is still late.
Sikorsky's contract was amended again in June 2010 to allow delivery of interim helicopters to begin in November that year with preliminary, instead of fully compliant, mission-system software. But even that schedule proved optimistic, with the first of the six interim-standard Cyclones not arriving at Shearwater's 12 Wing until May 2011.
As of the Farnborough airshow in June, the company had flown eight Cyclones and another 13 were in production. The six interim helicopters will remain under Sikorsky's title and control "until all contractual delivery requirements have been met", says DND, which expects to take formal delivery of the six interim Cyclones in 2012, allowing it to begin initial operational test and evaluation.
"Mechanically, physically, we are done," said Mick Maurer, Sikorsky's new president, at Farnborough. "But the software is not all the way there yet." The company is hoping to agree on a strategy to field the full mission-system capability through a series of software blocks. "They could take what we have now and do everything they want to do now in terms of training and testing, or they could wait till it is perfect," he said.