Canada's long-running CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter procurement saga - which could leave prime contractor Sikorsky liable to pay compensation totalling almost C$90 million ($91 million) - looks no closer to resolution.
Although a fourth helicopter in an interim configuration recently arrived at the Royal Canadian Air Force's 12 Wing Shearwater base in Nova Scotia, there is still no delivery date set for its initial batch of six aircraft.
Royal Canadian Air Force
Ottawa had originally stipulated that the interim rotorcraft should arrive in 2008, but delays forced this date back to November 2010, with fully compliant Cyclones intended to arrive from June 2012.
In its most recent update on the programme, Canada's Department of National Defence said that six interim aircraft would be delivered by the end of this year.
But in a third-quarter earnings call on 23 October, Greg Hayes, chief financial officer of Sikorsky parent company United Technologies, admitted that problems remain with the contract.
The company is "well on its way" to completing the respective five and 19 helicopters it had planned to deliver in 2012 and 2013, says Hayes, but significant stumbling blocks remain to their acceptance.
"Until we have an agreement with the Canadian government in terms of the final configuration and an interim configuration, we really can't ship anything. We need to continue to work with the Canadians to find a win-win here."
Ottawa's procurement body, Public Works and Government Services Canada, says it will only "take delivery of an interim aircraft when the related contractual requirements are met." It says that Sikorsky is so far liable for compensation of C$8 million due to the delay to the interim helicopters. A further sum, rising to a maximum of C$80.5 million, will be payable for late delivery of helicopters in the final configuration.
"Senior government officials are meeting with Sikorsky leadership regularly to review progress. Sikorsky has reconfirmed its commitment to deliver helicopters at no additional cost to the Crown," it says.
To date, 10 air force technicians from Shearwater have received servicing-level maintenance training for the S-92-derived Cyclone, says the service, but pilot training has yet to commence.
The maritime helicopter programme has been running since 2004, when Canada ordered 28 CH-148s in a deal worth C$5 billion, including a support package.