Canada Eyes VH-71s for Spare Parts

Canada Eyes VH-71s for Spare Parts: Canadian Forces are in negotiations with the United States to acquire the VH-71 helicopters that the Marine Corps procured to shuttle the President before the project was axed in 2009. Canada is “certainly interested in those airplanes,” Lt Gen. André Deschamps, Canadian Chief of Air Staff, told the Daily Report in an interview. Those VH-71s, which never carried the President and have been sitting idle, would provide spare parts for Canada’s CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue fleet. Both the CH-149 and VH-71 are based on the same AgustaWestland EH-101 airframe. Deschamps said the Cormorants routinely suffer availability rates as low as 50 percent despite being “brand-new airplanes.” “It’s an excellent platform—crews love it,” said Deschamps of the CH-149. He continued, “Our challenge is in having sufficient sparing and serviceability rates to deliver the full effect.” The Canadians are dependent upon replacement parts shipped from Europe, causing repair delays. A US deal would allow the Canadian air force to get the Cormorant fleet “back above the water-line,” as a first step to ironing out longer term supply issues, said Deschamps. As a stopgap, the Canadians have been forced to employ less-capable Bell 412s for inland SAR, with the Cormorants covering only the most-demanding coastal zones.