EH Industries, one of the contenders for Canada's Maritime Helicopter Programme (MHP), has launched an advertising campaign accusing Ottawa of "watering down" the specifications for helicopters which will replace the country's 30 ageing Sikorsky CH-124/A Sea Kings.

A 20-week campaign in The Hill Times, a weekly parliamentary newspaper, accuses the government of simplifying the new helicopters' specification to a level that they will "do less than the aircraft they're replacing".

The advertisement cites the example of the 1991 Gulf War where Canada's Sea Kings flew for 3h with a 30min fuel reserve in temperatures above 35°C (95°F).

"Now the government is willing to settle for a helicopter that can only stay in the air 2h 20min with the same fuel reserve in such conditions," the advertisement claims.

Last October, EHI demanded a public hearing into Ottawa's plan to acquire 28 maritime helicopters, claiming the procurement process is rigged against its Cormorant to prevent a "political embarrassment" (Flight International 17-23 October 2000). EHI originally won the contract awarded by the former Conservative government, but it was cancelled by the present Liberal government in 1993.

"The situation is worse than we thought," says EHI. "They keep dumbing down the standards so lesser aircraft can win the contract." EHI cites a recent newspaper report that says military planners were told in 1998 they had to accept a cheaper, less capable aircraft to replace the Sea King.

The other contenders for the C$2.9 billion ($1.9 billion) contract are the Eurocopter Cougar Mk2, NH Industries NH90 and the Sikorsky S-92. The mission system is subject to a separate competition.

Source: Flight International