Canadian American Strategic Review




 A  Modest

Status Report


Background  –  CF Maritime Helicopter  –  Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone

The New Shipboard Cyclone – a Windy Outcome?
The Maritime Helicopter Project  to replace the Sea King dragged out  for a quarter century.  Finally, in late 2003 there was a call for tenders. A winner was announced in July of  2004. The new Maritime Heli- copter would be Sikorsky's H-92 Superhawk which will be the CH-148 Cyclone  in  CF  service. A $3.2B contract includes airframes, integrated systems and the ubiquitous 20-year parts/training package – the latter a $1.8B deal covering construction and operation of the Maritime Helicopter Training Centre at CFB Shearwater.

Deciding factors in choosing  the H-92  would likely  be  purchase price, operating costs, and cabin size. [1]  It was a somewhat risky choice. Stability problems during  the development of the H-92 [2]  required  a 40cm  fuselage stretch to shift the aircraft's centre of gravity forward. This made the aircraft larger [3] and heavier – but it also had  the side benefits of  increasing cabin size and  allowing  a bigger access door.

"... round and round and round in the circle game..."
The H-92 has much in common mechanically with an earlier Sikorsky design, the SeaHawk.  By basing the H-92 on  this smaller helicopter,  Sikorsky was able to keep development costs down but weight-gain could only be countered by adopting a new, more powerful version of  the CT-7 engine –  to minimize risk, designers prefer to avoid putting untried engine variants into new airframe types. Unfortunately, this means that commonality of engine parts between the new CH-148s and  in-service SAR CH-149 Cormorants [3] will be minimal. NDHQ has obviously decided that the H-92 has other desirable features. [4]

IMH: Interminable Maritime Helicopters?
True to the Maritime Helicopter Project, the Cyclone is running late. Delivery dates slid and costs jumped  by $500 M.  Due in early 2008, the prototype CH-148 did not fly until Nov 2008. Peter MacKay insisted that first delivery for CH-148s would be mid-2010. Within six months, Canada had waived $89M in late fees and allowed Sikorsky two years to deliver a 'compliant' CH-148 Cyclone. It then came out that cost would be higher still and the initial deliveries of 'Interim Maritime Helicopters' would be missing mission kit. The MND promised IMH for summer 2011 but they didn't appeared either. [5] Other delivery dates – for June 2012 and 'sometime in 2013' – also came and went. Meanwhile, Sea Kings maintenance costs escalate.

But this time it's a really firm date ...
In early 2014, Public Works confirmed that CH-148 Cyclone procurement will proceed. Deliveries are now scheduled for 2015-2018. These interim Cyclones will have sufficient capability to begin retiring the CH-124 fleet. MHP delivery will begin a full decade late, Canadians are on the hook for over $1B extra, and the Full Operational Capability (FOC) date for the 'fully compliant' CH-148 Cyclone remains an unknown. Tricky stuff, this procurement.

[1] Cabin size was a major issue for many MHP contenders. Being twin-engined, H-92s would be lighter and more fuel-efficient (in theory) than the three-engined CH-149 SAR helicopters.  Reliability problems with  the CF Cormorant fleet at the time were also a deciding factor.
[2] Prototype H-92s experience a nose pitch-up at 60 knots (110 km/h). To correct the problem, Sikorsky redesigned the tail. Horizontal tail surfaces were repositioned from port to starboard and from a high-mounted to a low-mounted position (the earlier configuration is shown in the centre-left image, above). Size of the vertical fin was also reduced and the tail rotor position was lowered (resulting in lower weight).
[3] General Electric's 3000shp-class CT7-8C began testing in 2004. The CT7-8C uses a three-stage turbine (rather than two-stage as in the earlier CT7s.  Upgraded materials are used as well as an electronic control system.  Civilian certification for the CT7-8C is expected in 2007. [4] Sikorsky paid particular attention to 'crashworthiness' (keeping the fuel tanks in the large side sponsons) and to bird strike protection.
[5] "The first interim maritime helicopter [to arrive] at 12 Wing Shearwater, Nova Scotia, on May 13, 2011" was actually a commercial  S-92 type modified by Sikorsky as a flying Cyclone mockup to aid CFB Shearwater Maritime Helicopter Training Centre with ground-handling. 'Delivery' is a term that needs to be defined. Three IMH (MH 805, '807, and '808 are at Shearwater but not officially handed over to the CF).

Credits  —  top left Stephen Priestley (mod), centre left: Flug Revue, all others: UT-Sikorsky (via: Zak and Chung except bottom right)