Jun 6, 2015
Canada looks at Ex-US presidential helicopters for SAR Mission
The Canada's Department of National Defence had been insistent that the presidential helicopters, purchased in 2011 for spare parts for Canada’s current search-and-rescue choppers, would never be used as actual aircraft.
But in an about-face, the military and DND now acknowledge they are looking at doing just that.
Defence sources say senior officers inside the Royal Canadian Air Force have successfully argued that since the $3-billion helicopters, known as the VH-71, were airworthy, it didn’t make sense to strip them down for parts. They are pushing for the aircraft to be added to the RCAF flight line.
When Barack Obama came to the presidency, he balked at the high cost of the VH-71 helicopter program, which had been started under former president George W. Bush. Around $3 billion had already been spent and the program was expected to more than double in price.
As a result, the U.S. government shut down the program.
The VH-71s are similar to the search-and-rescue Cormorant helicopters currently used by the RCAF.
The nine new helicopters, as well as more than 800,000 spare parts, were purchased by DND for about $164 million. Seven of the choppers are airworthy.
Defence sources say the RCAF is considering using the helicopters to bolster the search-and-rescue fleet in the coming years since it will have to remove some Cormorants from service as they go through what is known as a mid-life upgrade.
A fleet of 21 helicopters would allow for better coverage, particularly in the Arctic.
Canada embarked on the presidential helicopter deal with the aim of trying to cut down on the excessive amount of time the Cormorants spent on the ground because of a lack of parts.