Nova Scotia-based IMP Aerospace & Defence has been awarded a contract by Leonardo to upgrade 13 in-service CH-149 Cormorant helicopters for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

Leonardo was selected in December 2022 to lead the mid-life upgrade (MLU) of the RCAF’s AW101-based Cormorant search and rescue (SAR) fleet.

CH-149-c-Canadian Forces Combat Camera

Source: Canadian Department of National Defence

Canada will eventually field fleet of 16 CH-149s

Under the MLU, Leonardo’s Yeovil facility in the UK – the home of the AW101 – will perform the modification work on the first three examples, while IMP will handle the remainder at its Halifax site.

IMP is a partner in Leonardo’s “Team Cormorant” grouping, which also includes CAE, Collins Aerospace Canada, and GE Aviation Canada.

Canada is spending C$1 billion ($730 million) modernising the Cormorant fleet, which will see it operated until at least 2042.

Enhancements include a new glass cockpit, more powerful digitally-controlled GE Aerospace CT7-8E engines, wireless in-cabin communications, and the latest SAR sensors.

As well as the 13 in-service CH-149s, the MLU also provides for the delivery of an additional three aircraft to the RCAF composed of airframes and parts sourced from Leonardo and used components.

These include parts in storage from the existing Cormorant fleet and those salvaged from the nine AW101-based VH-71 Kestrel airframes Canada acquired from the USA in 2009 following the cancellation of that programme.