Leonardo wins 1 billion Canadian dollars (690 million euros) contract for AW101/CH-149 SAR "Cormorant" modernization

(To Leonardo)

The Canadian Department of National Defense has awarded Leonardo (through Leonardo UK Ltd - Yeovil) a contract worth 1 billion Canadian dollars (690 million euros) for the modernization and expansion program of the AW101/CH-149 helicopter fleet SAR (Search and Rescue) “Cormorant”. The 13 Cormorants dedicated to search and rescue currently in service and undergoing modernization are joined by three more units, expanding the fleet to a total of 16 aircraft. This contract will enhance the performance of helicopter systems and technologies, ensure compliance with the latest and future airspace regulations, extend fleet operations through 2042 and beyond, and enable the return of Cormorant helicopters to Main Operating Base in Trenton .

After 20 years of honorable operational service, the CH-149 Cormorant fleet will benefit from a modernization project proposed by Team Cormorant, a partnership between Leonardo and its main Canadian subcontractor IMP Aerospace and Defence, together with GE Canada and Collins Aerospace Canada. Most of the activities of the upgrade program (named CMLU - Cormorant MidLife Upgrade) will be carried out in Canada, mainly at IMP.

The modernization program will bring Canada's fleet of AW101/CH-149 SAR "Cormorant" helicopters to the highest standards of operational capability, the same that characterize Norway's AW101 SAR, by far the best search and rescue helicopters in the world. The program will include: latest generation avionics, a new digital cockpit, more powerful engines, wireless communications in the cabin, the latest standard of sensors for search and rescue including an electro-optical system and one for locating mobile phones. These capabilities will allow to reduce the time needed for the search and increase the rescue capacity.

Alessandro Profumo, Leonardo's Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are proud to be leading, together with the partners of Team Cormorant, the modernization of the fleet of AW101/CH149 SAR 'Cormorant' helicopters, as announced by the Canadian government. The Cormorant is the ideal helicopter for the Canadian Government, able to satisfy the requirements of its Armed Forces, with important returns for the Canadian industry and the best economic benefits for citizens".

Gian Piero Cutillo, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters, said: “The fleet of AW101/CH-149 “Cormorant” helicopters will provide the Canadian Air Force with robust and technologically advanced search and rescue capabilities, to operate in all weather conditions throughout Canada. The modernization program, through Team Cormorant, will reduce the cost of operating the fleet while further increasing its reliability, capabilities and safety, for the benefit of Canadian citizens.".

July 2022 coincided with the 20 year anniversary of the Cormorant's first operational flight in 2002. The first helicopter was delivered in October 2001. The Canadian fleet has now achieved over 100.000 flight hours. The AW101 is the most advanced medium helicopter on the market today and is in production, in service and in demand due to its performance. The AW101 features extended range, payload capacity and advanced technology, all combined with cost-effectiveness and mission versatility, a new era in vertical flight operations. Over 220 AW101 helicopters have so far been ordered by customers worldwide to perform a variety of missions including SAR, combat SAR, personnel recovery, special operations, utility, troop transport and tactical, anti-ship and submarine operations, patrol, demining. The global fleet has surpassed 500.000 flight hours in operations that have taken place in a variety of geographic areas, from the Arctic to Antarctica. 

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