Maritime helicopter procurement flounders

Before the F-35 fiasco, there was the Maritime Helicopter Program, another disastrous, wasteful military procurement program.

Whatever happened to that program?

As David Pugliese reported earlier this month (“Sikorsky hasn’t paid $8M fine for late helicopter delivery,” Ottawa Citizen, 3 January 2012), we’re still waiting to get something out of it:

The original plan called for the first Sikorsky Cyclone helicopter to be delivered in November 2008 with deliveries of all 28 helicopters completed by early 2011.

But Sikorsky has yet to deliver a single aircraft to Canada under the $5.7 billion program.

According to government documents the U.S. firm could have faced anywhere from $36 million to $89 million in penalties for failing to meet various project deadlines and in January 2008 Defence Minister Peter MacKay said such fees would kick in if Sikorsky didn’t deliver.

But the Conservative government eventually waived those and instead a new deal was negotiated to allow Sikorsky to deliver an “interim” or incomplete helicopter. Sikorsky, however, missed the new deadline for that delivery as well and in the spring of 2011 the government hit it with an $8 million penalty – the maximum the company could face for failing to provide an interim aircraft.

That fine has yet to be paid.

And it gets worse:

In its attempts to help Sikorsky along, DND officials reduced the criteria for the interim aircraft to receive a military airworthiness certification. But even with that Sikorsky failed to meet its delivery timetable, according to a November 2010 briefing note for Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

The reduced criteria would have allowed for safe flying of the aircraft but the helicopter would have been restricted in what it could do. It would not have been allowed to fly over water or at night, according to the briefing note.

At present, according to someone who claims to be an insider working on the project, the aircraft is unflyable in any conditions.

DND photo

Tags: Canadian military spending, CH-148, Defence policy, F-35, Helicopters, Military spending, Sikorsky