The Royal Canadian Air Force's CH-149 "Cormorant" helicopter is the Canadian version of the Agusta Westland AW101 / EH101 "Merlin" medium-lift transport / utility helicopter. In its original form, the EH101 was developed to a 1977 British Defence Ministry requirement for a new, all-modern Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopter and the prototype first flew on October 9th, 1987 with service entry (finally) granted in 1999. It was a joint-development between Westland of Britain and Agusta of Italy and both brands now fall under the Leonardo (of Italy) name.
With that backdrop, the Royal Canadian Air force committed to the type in 1987 when it contracted for forty-eight of the helicopters to serve under the designation CH-149 "Cormorant". These would be used to succeed the aging fleets of Boeing CH-113 "Labradors" ("Sea Knights") and Sikorsky CH-124 "Sea Kings". The Cormorant was adopted by the RCAF specifically for the Search & Rescue (SAR) role.
A first-flight of the Canadian version of the EH101 occurred on May 31st, 2000 and service entry followed that same year. The original forty-eight order (which was reduced to 42) was eventually cut down to just fifteen helicopters and first-operations involving the helicopter began in 2002 and replaced the aging CH-113 helicopters then in service.
The CH-149 has a standard operating crew of five which includes two pilots, a flight engineer and two equipment technicians. The rear passenger section can seat up to fifteen combat-ready troopers or twelve medical litters and their accompanying staff. There is a rectangular side-mounted sliding door at the starboard side of the fuselage as well as a powered loading / unloading ramp at the rear of the fuselage (under the tail stem). Empty weight is 23,150lb against an MTOW of 32,200lb. Power is from 3 x General Electric CT7-8E turboshaft engines of 3,000 horsepower each driving the five-bladed main rotor assembly and four-bladed tail rotor unit. The main rotor sits close to the engine compartment and the tail rotor is set to face the portside of the aircraft. A wheeled tricycle undercarriage (retractable) is used for ground-running.
The CH-149 is designed to operate in extremely volatile conditions including mountainous and cold weather conditions and thusly carries a complete ice-protection / de-icing system. The main rotors are affixed with titanium strips along their leading edges to reinforcement the blades as they rotate and also help reduce vibrations - a particularly helpful quality when attempting hovering actions in windy conditions.
The Cormorant has a never-exceed-speed of 173 miles per hour and ranges out to 865 miles. Its listed service ceiling is 10,000 feet with a rate-of-climb reaching 2,010 feet-per-minute.
A modernization initiative announced in March of 2017 was confirmed as a Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) for the series. This will upgrade sensors, the radar fit, general search-and-tracking equipment and install a new version of the 3,000 horsepower GE CT7-8E engine. There is a separate initiative to upgrade ex-U.S. VH-71 "Kestrel" helicopters (nine were produced for the USMC in the abandoned "Marine One" venture) to the CH-149 standard and increase the size of the existing Cormorant fleet for the RCAF.
The CH-149 is in use with the 103 Search and Rescue Squadron as well as the 413 and 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron(s).
Another helicopter under development for the RCAF is the Sikorsky CH-148 "Cyclone". This model is being built as a maritime platform to directly succeed the CH-124 "Sea King" series mentioned earlier. Introduction of this oft-delayed model is set for sometime in 2018 and eleven have been completed to date (2017) with some 28 total contracted for. The design is based in the Sikorsky S-92 model family though a wholly militarized form at its core. The CH-148 is detailed elsewhere on this site.
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