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CH-149 Cormorant

GKN Westland Helicopters and Agusta SpA assembled several Canadian companies to work with them to supply the EH101 Cormorant for the Canadian Government's requirement for up to 15 search and rescue (SAR) helicopters. Operating under the banner of Team Cormorant the core members included Bombardier, Bristol Aerospace and CAE. In addition, Canadian Helicopters from St. John's, Newfoundland, joined the team to provide for a leasing option and follow-on maintenance as outlined by the Canadian Minister of National Defence.

The Cormorant incorporated many of the features developed for the British and Italian aircraft and had been specifically configured for search and rescue operations in hazardous environments. The Cormorant was designed to operate both day and night in the most adverse weather conditions, including known icing. Cormorant incorporated modern design techniques and advanced technology features that make it the most capable, long range search and rescue helicopter available. Cormorant won selection against fierce international competition from the Boeing CH-47 Chinook, Sikorsky S-70 and Eurocopter Super Puma Mk2 (Cougar).

The first production Cormorant search and rescue helicopter for Canada lifted off on its maiden flight during a special ceremony held at Agusta's Vergiate facility on 31 May 2000. The first unit to receive Cormorant was 442 Transport & Rescue Squadron at 19 Wing in Comox, British Columbia. This base hosted five helicopters at the time that would form the Operational Training Unit and the remaining ten aircraft were divided between 413 Squadron at 14 Wing in Greenwood, Nova Scotia. The CH-149 Cormorant began arriving at 14 Wing in the summer of 2001, replacing the aging CH-113 Labrador.

The Cormorant's ability to fly at faster speeds, over longer distances and in worse weather conditions than either the DeHavilland Buffalo (a fixed wing aircraft) or Labrador made the Cormorant a welcome replacement for Canadian Forces search and rescue crews. With its three powerful engines, it can recover from any point of flight. Its ice protection system, which allows it to operate in continuous icing conditions, and its ability to withstand high winds are optimal for conducting search and rescue missions over the rough Atlantic ocean.

Cormorant features three General Electric T700-T6A1 engines, large sliding cargo door, a Breeze-Eastern twin rescue hoist system, a rear-ramp for loading vehicles and cargo, bubble observation windows on both sides of the fuselage and a Spectrolab SX-16 searchlight.

It is also equipped with a Night Vision Goggle (NVG) compatible glass cockpit, navigation system including a Bendix RDR 1400 radar, a Litton LN-100G embedded laser INS/GPS unit and radio/distress receiver sets. The aircraft's standard configuration features two observation seats, a patient treatment area with three stretchers on the port side, rescue accommodation area, passenger seats and equipment stowage. The main cabin can also be configured for casualty evacuation with provision for twelve stretchers.

Thanks to an excellent working relationship with the Canadian Departments of National Defense and of Public Works and Government Services, the program was completed both ahead of schedule and on budget. In addition, $629 million of direct and indirect investment would be secured with the Canadian aerospace industry over eight years.

With its modern design techniques and advanced technology, Cormorant would be the most capable, long-range search and rescue helicopter available when it entered service with the Canadian Armed Forces in 2001. When Cormorant entered service with Canada's search and rescue teams, it would be operated in some of the world's most hazardous and demanding conditions.

Search and rescue demands a helicopter that can search accurately for long periods at very long ranges from its base. It must also be capable of operating in Canada's hostile climatic conditions as well as in its rugged environment and be able to find, rescue and accommodate at least twenty survivors. Cormorant was such a helicopter as it was able to operate in all weather conditions, including known icing.

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