It’s going on to 25 years since Jean Chrétien promised (in the 1993 campaign’s now famous Red Book) “zero helicopters” for the Canadian Forces because, he told Canadians, the Mulroney Conservatives wanted to replace the ageing but still serviceable Sea Kings (which entered service in the early 1960s) with “Cadillacs” … so they, the Canadian Forces got nothing at all for another quarter century. But, in fact, as Prime Minister Chrétien, a very astute politician, well know Canadians are always happy to spend less and less on their defences … in the hope that Uncle Sam will do it for us.
Now, CBC News reports, the Sea Kings, which entered service with the Royal Canadian Navy before the Canadian Forces were created by integrating (one uniform, a silly idea) and unifying (joint forces, a great idea) the three service in the second half of the 1960s, will be replaced, over the course of 2018, by the new CH-148 Cyclones, made by Sikorsky, who also made the Sea Kings more than a half century ago.
The CBC cannot resist telling us that the Cycles have “growing pains.” That is, I am 100% certain, quite true, but I can tell you, after 35+ years of military service, that every new ship, aircraft, tank or radio has some “growing pains.” It doesn’t mean the new system is bad, it may mean that we (the military planners) didn’t work closely enough with the manufacturer or, perhaps, that we specified something that we didn’t really understand or that the new system just has some features that we don’t quite understand … most likely a bit of each in the case of the Cyclone.
But, “growing pains” or not, well done to:
- The Paul Martin Liberals for selecting the Cyclone in 2004 and awarding the contract;
- The Stephen Harper Conservatives for sticking with the project even when there were engineering difficulties and seeing the aircraft into the final test and acceptance phase;
- To the Trudeau Liberals for putting them into service; and
- Especially to the men and women at Sikorski, who have built what (I have been told by maritime air pilots) is a very, very good helicopter, and in the Canadian Armed Forces who are, already, flying and maintaining them.