Canada's defence minister has warned that it must secure funding for upgrades of two helicopter types in its inventory or risk compromising the effectiveness of its armed forces.

In a speech on 3 May, Harjit Singh Sajjan criticised previous administrations for failing to allocate sufficient investment to sustain its AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorants and Bell Helicopter CH-146 Griffons in the long-term.

He identifies a list of "major capital projects" that are "entirely unfunded", despite being "projects that must be completed to allow our military to just keep doing what it's doing".

A mid-life upgrade of the Royal Canadian Air Force's AW101-based, search and rescue-roled Cormorants is looming, he notes.

"We are talking about a critical need to invest in a fleet of aircraft that our air force uses on operations every day to help Canadians in distress."

CH-149 Cormorant

Royal Canadian Air Force

Flight Fleets Analyzer records the RCAF as having an active fleet of 14 CH-149s, with an average age of 14.5 years. In addition, it has nine airframes in storage following their acquisition from the USA following the cancellation of its VH-71 presidential helicopter programme.

Sajjan also warns that without an upgrade to the avionics and cockpits of the Griffons, they will have to removed from service, despite their reliability.

"If we don’t fund their life-extension project, we need to phase them out because helicopters with obsolete instrumentation can't fly in North American airspace," he says.

Ottawa has been analysing its defence spending requirements and policy options since April 2016. It is likely to unveil its priorities later this year.