Sea King replacements could be smaller, cheaper helicopters

Government could be set to follow through on its threat to scrap the $5B helicopter contract

sea-king-helicopterCBC News has learned the government is considering a major rethink of how the military uses its helicopters at sea. The change, if implemented, would spell the end for a five-year-old, $5-billion contract with Sikorsky to replace Canada’s aging fleet of Sea Kings, instead opting for smaller, cheaper helicopters.

The possible shift comes as part of a data-gathering engagement initiated earlier this month in which three rival helicopter manufacturers were asked to provide information about possible alternatives to the CH-148 Cyclone, including two much smaller choppers that could save the government billions of dollars.

CBC News has learned there are four other helicopters being considered, including the MH-60 Sea Hawk – a naval version of Sikorsky’s Blackhawk used by various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces – as well as AgustaWestland’s 159 and 101 and NH Industries’ medium-sized NH-90.

Both the Sea Hawk and the AW159 are significantly smaller than the AW101, Cyclone and Sea King.

However, while a smaller helicopter could cost less and would likely be delivered much faster than the stalled Cyclone, it would require the military to completely rethink the way it uses helicopters at sea.

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