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December 23, 2022 | Local, Aerospace

Minister Anand announces Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade and Simulator Solution Contracts Award to ensure continued Search and Rescue capabilities

December 22, 2022 - National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces – Ottawa, Ontario

Today, Minister of National Defence Anita Anand, on behalf of Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Helena Jaczek, announced the award of two contracts to support the
CH-149 Cormorant helicopter fleet and ensure the continued contribution of the fleet to Canada’s search and rescue (SAR) operations.

The two contracts for the Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade and its simulator solution, valued at up to $1.24 billion (taxes included), were awarded to CAE Inc. of Montreal, Canada and to Leonardo U.K. Ltd of Yeovil, United Kingdom.

The CH-149 Cormorant fleet has been providing reliable and crucial service to Canada since 2001 and requires upgrades to remain operationally effective. Through the contract with Leonardo U.K. Ltd., we will upgrade our current fleet to the most advanced version of the helicopter, and acquire additional airframes/parts to increase our fleet size from 13 to 16 aircraft. This will ensure that we can continue to perform SAR operations from Comox, B.C., Gander, N.L., Greenwood, N.S., and add to the SAR capacity from Trenton, Ont.

Moreover, this project addresses the need for an improved training solution. By providing a domestic flight simulator configured to our modernized aircraft, our aircrews will have dedicated training capacity in Canada that is representative of our modernized fleet; and will no longer need to travel to the United Kingdom to train on simulators that may not be consistent with our aircraft.

As outlined in Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, the Government of Canada is making investments to ensure the members of the Royal Canadian Air Force have the equipment they need to fulfill their domestic and international missions, including SAR operations here at home.


“The top item in my mandate letter from the Prime Minister is to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces has the capabilities, equipment and culture needed to implement the objectives in our Defence Policy. The CH-149 Cormorant helicopter is a critical asset for search and rescue operations in Canada – and these contracts provide the best solution for Canada to upgrade its fleet and provide the accompanying training tools to our aviators so that they can continue to keep Canadians safe – now, and in the years to come.”

- The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence  

“I am pleased that today’s contract award announcement to CAE Inc. and Leonardo U.K. Ltd will enable our government to continue to provide the Royal Canadian Air Force and its members with the advanced equipment they need to do their job, at the best value for Canadians.” 

- The Honourable Helena Jaczek, Minister of Public Services and Procurement

“Through these contracts, our government will provide the Canadian Armed Forces with the equipment it needs while ensuring long-term economic benefits for Canadians. This procurement will advance Canadian innovation in our world-class defence and aerospace industries while creating jobs and contributing to economic growth in Canada”

- The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Quick facts

  • These contracts are valued at $1.168 billion for the helicopter upgrades, and $78 million for the training solution (taxes included).

  • Capability enhancements and equipment improvements will be implemented on the CH-149 fleet to improve service to Canadians and meet the operational availability requirements to support the national 24/7 SAR service.

  • With this project the CH-149 fleet will be upgraded to the most advanced version of the helicopter, the AW101 612; the same model Norway has recently procured to conduct its rotary-wing SAR missions. Using this already established configuration accelerates the project considerably. Training solutions will also be acquired under the project to move aircrew training home to Canada.

  • Additional airframes/parts will be acquired from Leonardo U.K. Ltd to increase the fleet size from 13 to 16 helicopters. These additional aircraft, will be produced with predominantly new parts and some used parts in inventory from the VH-71 and current CH-149 fleets which include transmissions, landing gears and control surfaces to reduce costs and ensure value for money.

  • CH-149 Cormorant aircraft are currently based at 19 Wing Comox, 9 Wing Gander, and 14 Wing Greenwood and the addition of aircraft will enable a return to 8 Wing Trenton.

  • Delivery of these upgrades and training systems are expected to begin in 2026, and anticipated to be fully operational in 2029. 

  • The Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy will leverage economic benefits for Canadian industry equal to the value of the contracts. Leonardo U.K. Ltd and CAE Inc. are working with several Canadian companies as part of their industrial commitments to Canada including in Key Industrial Capability (KIC) areas such as defence system integration, training and simulation, aerospace systems and components. 

  • Through the application of Canada’s Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) Policy, both CAE Inc. and Leonardo U.K. Ltd will enter into high quality business activities within the world class Canadian aerospace and defence industry.

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