Canada is considering the economic viability of resurrecting a number of mothballed helicopters – originally destined to provide VVIP transportation for the US government – to augment its long-range search and rescue (SAR) fleet.

Ottawa acquired nine AgustaWestland AW101 airframes, spare parts and support equipment in 2011, following the cancellation by President Barack Obama of the US Navy's VH-71 Kestrel programme to replace the presidential transport fleet. AgustaWestland had teamed up with Lockheed Martin to build the Kestrels.

They have since been kept in storage, with the Royal Canadian Air Force using them for spare parts to support its fleet of AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant SAR aircraft.

CH-149 Cormorant

Department for National Defence

However, Canada's Department of National Defence is considering returning them to a flyable condition. It says: "The Department of National Defence has conducted its preliminary assessment... [which] has determined that further detailed studies are required to determine whether to incorporate this potential capability into the RCAF SAR rotary-wing fleet."

The VH-71s are not in a flyable condition, it says, noting that "to bring these helicopters to an airworthy SAR configuration would be a major undertaking".

Canada operates a fleet of 14 CH-149s, with the earliest example dating from 2000, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database.