Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Timing of Acquisition Unclear If Ottawa Changes Course on Maritime Helicopter

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Timing of Acquisition Unclear If Ottawa Changes Course on Maritime Helicopter

Article excerpt

Helicopter timing unclear if Sikorsky ditched

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HALIFAX - The head of the Defence Department's procurement section said he doesn't know when the military could have a new maritime helicopter in place if Ottawa abandons the CH-148 Cyclones as it seeks alternatives in the long-delayed program.

Rear Admiral Pat Finn said at a security meeting in Halifax on Friday that the timeline is unclear now that the federal government is looking at other options to replace the air force's aging fleet of Sea Kings.

He described the latest development as part of a multi-track process with the government assessing other assets that might better suit the military's maritime needs while remaining in talks with the Cyclone's manufacturer, Sikorsky.

"If there to be a change of direction ... we would have to work at what's the other solution, what's the different approach and I wouldn't be able to give you any kind of schedule at this point," Finn said following a speech updating the military's procurement programs.

"But we want to make sure that we get the capability that the navy needs and the air force operates on their behalf."

Sources revealed Thursday that a military team visited a southern base in the United Kingdom recently to look at Royal Navy HM-1 Merlin helicopters.

A spokeswoman for Public Works Minister Diane Finley says the government is looking at options "other" than the troubled Cyclones, which are years behind schedule and billions of dollars over-budget.

Finn said this latest development should put pressure on the company to deliver on its contract to deliver a total of 28 aircraft.

Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson said the company's singular focus remains on working closely with the Canadian government to deliver a world-class maritime helicopter.

"We have a dedicated team of senior executives, experienced engineers, technicians and support staff working with the Canadian government to deliver the world's most technologically advanced and capable maritime helicopter to the men and women serving in the Canadian Armed Forces," he said in an email statement.

"We continue to make strong and steady progress."

Jackson noted the initial training for Cyclone pilots and maintenance crews has started at Shearwater, a military base in Halifax. …

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