More trouble in Cyclone helicopter buy

The program to replace Canada’s 50-year-old CH-124 Sea King helicopters, which has been called the “worst procurement in the history of Canada“, is now facing new problems (Murray Brewster, “New Cyclone chopper technical concerns potential “show stopper” sources,” Canadian Press, 12 September 2013):

Canadian air force engineers and flight-certification officials are grappling with serious concerns related to the electronics aboard the CH-148 Cyclone helicopters that are supposed to replace the geriatric Sea Kings.

That’s the word from defence sources with intimate knowledge of the troubled program.

The federal government has refused to accept four test helicopters, currently parked at the Canadian Forces facility in Shearwater, N.S., on the basis they are “non-compliant” — and most of the public explanation has related to software issues.

But the sources say there’s concern that delicate flight systems, including a computer that runs the engines, are not sufficiently shielded against powerful electromagnetic waves, such as those produced by military-grade radar on frigates.

The interference has the potential of blanking out the digital instruments and possibly shutting down the engines.

The directorate of air worthiness at National Defence issued a restricted flight certificate in July and imposed restrictions on the helicopter’s operations specifically because of so-called E-3 concerns — electromagnetic compatibility, electromagnetic vulnerability and electromagnetic interference.

“Each of them are potential show-stoppers,” said one source, who asked for anonymity.

“The vulnerability depends on the frequency and the strength of the signal. You have the potential of losing your instruments and not knowing where you are, and having to take visual cues from outside your aircraft to get down safely.”

The Cyclone, meant to replace 50-year-old CH-124 Sea Kings, was cleared to fly within sight of the ground only during daylight hours as part of a long-delayed flight test program that was to have been carried out last month in Nova Scotia.

It also cannot fly over water because of separate, unresolved concerns about the flotation system.


Photo credit: Sikorsky

Tags: Canada, Canadian defence policy, CH-124, CH-148, Cyclone, Helicopter, Military procurement, Rideau Institute, Sea King