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OP Ed piece on expanding SAR capability using ex-Presidential choppers

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jollyjacktar

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I don't always agree with his views but this caught my attention.  Shared under the fair dealings provisions of the copyright act.

OPINION: Former presidential copters should do search and rescue in Canada

Colin Kenny
Published August 25, 2016 - 5:37pm
Since the Trudeau government took office, the minister of national defence has spent much of his time musing about Canada’s military role in Iraq, the CF-18 replacements, and a future role in peacekeeping.

As important as these issues are, the minister would be wise to spend time on another file in need of his attention: search and rescue (SAR).

SAR does not get much attention until something goes awry.

I often recount this story when discussing SAR, but it’s one most Canadians likely still remember.

In October, 2011, SAR technician Sgt. Janick Gilbert and his crew were called to fly to Igloolik, Nunavut, to rescue a young man and his father stranded on the ice. Thirty minutes before sunset and total darkness, the SAR techs parachuted down into waves more than 10 feet high. The temperature was -8C and winds were gusting up to 60 kilometres an hour. Sgt. Gilbert landed the furthest from the liferaft and was found five hours later, floating lifeless in the water. He was posthumously awarded the Star of Courage for his actions.

This is just one example of more than 10,000 SAR incidents that occur each year. Around 1,200 are considered life-and-death situations. The sheer number of annual rescues is compounded by the vast expanse of coverage SAR techs are called on to provide. Canadian SAR operations are divided into three areas, totalling 18 million square kilometres. The largest, the Trenton region , spans more than 10 million square kilometres, an area 15 times the size of France.

SAR techs rely on a number of specialized fixed and rotary wing aircraft, including the CH-149 Cormorant helicopter. While Cormorants are highly effective SAR aircraft, there simply are just not enough to go around in a country the size of Canada. The 14 Cormorants are spread between the east and west coasts, leaving Trenton region to rely on the inferior CH-146 Griffon.

The Griffon is a converted civilian helicopter never designed to be used for SAR. It’s considerably slower than the Cormorant, has less lift capacity and less than half the aeronautical range.

The Cormorants are now almost 20 years old. They are approaching their required mid-life refit. When the refit begins, the fleet will be further thinned. The Griffons will likely have to assume a larger role in SAR.

If anyone took a few minutes to focus on this issue, they would find there is a cost-effective answer to this problem.

Canada has nine VH-71 helicopters, which are very similar to the Cormorants, sitting idle. We’ve already paid for them. They were part of a fleet originally bought by the U.S. Marines to transport the president. When the Americans cancelled the program in 2012, the RCAF snapped them up, along with 800,000 spare parts for pennies on the dollar.

The minister of defence should have already acted to secure funds needed to put these VH-71s into service. Despite this oversight, it’s not too late. The presidential choppers would only require new avionics suites and side doors to make them SAR ready.

By doing so, we would be able to refit the Cormorants without diminishing SAR capabilities while the refit is under way.

After the refit, the new VH-71s would replace the Griffons, bring commonality to operations and provide better coverage in the largest SAR region in the country.

Now is the time for Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan to get off his keister and provide our pilots and our SAR techs with the tools they need to do their jobs and get home safely.

Colin Kenny is former chair of the Senate committee on national security and defence. Kennyco@sen.parl.gc.ca

http://thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/1391707-opinion-former-presidential-copters-should-do-search-and-rescue-in-canada
 

captloadie

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The presidential choppers would only require new avionics suites and side doors to make them SAR ready

That's all eh? Oh, and maybe train some crew on them . . . . We should be good to go in say 4-5 years.

That said, I do think if implemented correctly, introducing these helos would be  a benefit to the RCAF.
 

dapaterson

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What could possibly go wrong with machines that have been sitting idle for years? Just look at those wonderful British submarines!

 

Lightguns

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"The Griffon is a converted civilian helicopter never designed to be used for SAR. It’s considerably slower than the Cormorant, has less lift capacity and less than half the aeronautical range."

Do tell!!?!  You would think someone might have noticed that before we bought them.........
 

Eye In The Sky

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captloadie said:
The presidential choppers would only require new avionics suites and side doors to make them SAR ready

That's all eh? Oh, and maybe train some crew on them . . . . We should be good to go in say 4-5 years.

That said, I do think if implemented correctly, introducing these helos would be  a benefit to the RCAF.

Maybe the stupid thing is that we acquired them, not that we're not using them.  If these are the only ones ever built, why bother?  A bunch of spare parts...vague.  ALL spare parts (like spares for each and every component?).

More info needed to have an opinion, but this might look easy and cheap etc to those not famil with air ops.  Personally I don't consider a range of 1400 (max) anything to write home about but...I'm biased from LRP on what eff ranges are.
 

dapaterson

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The US bought a/c similar but not identical to the Cormorants.  As costs spiralled, they canned the program, and liquidated the assets they held.  Canada bought them up as a cheap source of spare parts, since they are very similar.

If Canada were to refurb the helicopters that have not been flying, and add Canadian avionics, radios and SAR gear, they would be almost but not quite the same as the in-service Cormorants - or, in other words, they would be different. I am not an engineer, so I can't quantify how different they would be, nor what the impact on training and maintenance would be.  Nor can I say what it would cost to do so, and whether that would be a cost-effective way of doing things or not (compared to other options, such as buying new).
 

Eye In The Sky

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It would be very hard, if at all doable, to maintain currency/proficiency/category on the 2 *similar* platforms.  I was part of the 'dual qual' folks between Block 2 and Block 3 Aurora, and it isn't as easy or ''fun" as it might seem.  :2c:

 

Oldgateboatdriver

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Lightguns said:
"The Griffon is a converted civilian helicopter never designed to be used for SAR. It’s considerably slower than the Cormorant, has less lift capacity and less than half the aeronautical range."

Do tell!!?!  You would think someone might have noticed that before we bought them.........

Well, when we bought them, we had not even decided to acquire the Cormorants yet - so its kind of idiotic to compare them as part of your decision to acquire the Griffon - especially when you consider the Griffons were not acquired as SAR assets to start with.

Hindsight is always 20/20.
 
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jollyjacktar

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Oldgateboatdriver said:
Well, when we bought them, we had not even decided to acquire the Cormorants yet - so its kind of idiotic to compare them as part of your decision to acquire the Griffon - especially when you consider the Griffons were not acquired as SAR assets to start with.

Hindsight is always 20/20.

Then why in the hell did we buy them to begin with?
 

Oldgateboatdriver

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To replace the Kiowas, Twin Hueys and Iroquois then in service and getting due for replacement: The Griffons were meant as tactical Army helicopters, with only a few assigned to the limited SAR role around CF bases.

It is unfair to compare them to Cormorants acquired right from the start to carry out  air SAR around the whole country.
 
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jollyjacktar

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Oldgateboatdriver said:
To replace the Kiowas, Twin Hueys and Iroquois then in service and getting due for replacement: The Griffons were meant as tactical Army helicopters, with only a few assigned to the limited SAR role around CF bases.

It is unfair to compare them to Cormorants acquired right from the start to carry out  air SAR around the whole country.

Not the Griffins, the other "not quite" Cormorants.  I thought that was what you were referring to as buying before we bought the Cormorant.
 

dapaterson

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We bought the not-quite-Cormorants as sources for spares, as there are great similarities.

See:  http://casr.ca/doc-news-vh71-cormorant-delivery.htm and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_VH-71_Kestrel to start.
 

Kirkhill

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Lightguns said:
"The Griffon is a converted civilian helicopter never designed to be used for SAR. It’s considerably slower than the Cormorant, has less lift capacity and less than half the aeronautical range."

Do tell!!?!  You would think someone might have noticed that before we bought them.........

I thought the Griffon, in SAR role, was intended merely to return pilots that got lost while doing circuits and bumps at air bases.  It was only given a civilian response role if a fisherman got lost in the immediate vicinity of the base.

The Cormorant was purchased for dedicated long range SAR duties, IIRC.
 

Harrigan

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The Cormorants were always intended to be the primary rotary-wing SAR asset at the four main SAR bases (Comox, Trenton, Greenwood, Gander).  However, with only 15 airframes, it was always going to be tight, and the initial availability problems with the Cormorant resulted in the decision to reduce from 4 main bases to 3, Trenton being seen as the base that could get along with a less capable SAR helicopter.  The loss of a Cormorant in 2006 exacerbated the situation.

The VH-71 purchase was for spare parts, and has been a rare procurement success, the "aircraft" having provided key replacement components for the flying fleet that have more than justified the relatively paltry sum paid for them.

It is tempting to get some of them to flying status, at least to get back to the original 15 primary SAR helicopter figure and potentially allow Trenton to regain its Cormorants.  But as a previous poster said, "Canadianizing" a currently out-of-service airframe and converting it for a role that it was not designed for (the VH-71's were designed as VIP transport helos from the get-go, and have some rather unique features built into them that would need to be re-engineered to make them equivalent to the CH-149), is bound to cost more than anticipated.  That said, if no new Cormorants are being contemplated (and I don't believe it is), it might be a possible solution to the current SAR shortages.

Harrigan

P.S.  I also believe there is a bureaucratic problem with converting them to flying airframes.  IIRC, they were purchased and exported from the US specifically as spare parts, and I believe there are some legal issues to resolve if Canada were to make them fly again.
 

Good2Golf

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Chris Pook said:
I thought the Griffon, in SAR role, was intended merely to return pilots that got lost while doing circuits and bumps at air bases.  It was only given a civilian response role if a fisherman got lost in the immediate vicinity of the base.

The Cormorant was purchased for dedicated long range SAR duties, IIRC.

:nod:

Hence why CH-118 Iroquois (Huey) helicopters equipped units that were called "Base Rescue Flights."  Cold Lake, Moose Jaw, Bagotville, Goose Bay - all BRFs, not primary RW SAR units.

Perhaps the main gear boxes of the VH-71s are useful...but ask the Danes how they enjoy operating a split-configuration Merlin fleet...

:2c:

Regards
G2G
 

quadrapiper

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Harrigan said:
The Cormorants were always intended to be the primary rotary-wing SAR asset at the four main SAR bases (Comox, Trenton, Greenwood, Gander).  However, with only 15 airframes, it was always going to be tight, and the initial availability problems with the Cormorant resulted in the decision to reduce from 4 main bases to 3, Trenton being seen as the base that could get along with a less capable SAR helicopter.  The loss of a Cormorant in 2006 exacerbated the situation.

The VH-71 purchase was for spare parts, and has been a rare procurement success, the "aircraft" having provided key replacement components for the flying fleet that have more than justified the relatively paltry sum paid for them.

It is tempting to get some of them to flying status, at least to get back to the original 15 primary SAR helicopter figure and potentially allow Trenton to regain its Cormorants.  But as a previous poster said, "Canadianizing" a currently out-of-service airframe and converting it for a role that it was not designed for (the VH-71's were designed as VIP transport helos from the get-go, and have some rather unique features built into them that would need to be re-engineered to make them equivalent to the CH-149), is bound to cost more than anticipated.  That said, if no new Cormorants are being contemplated (and I don't believe it is), it might be a possible solution to the current SAR shortages.

Harrigan

P.S.  I also believe there is a bureaucratic problem with converting them to flying airframes.  IIRC, they were purchased and exported from the US specifically as spare parts, and I believe there are some legal issues to resolve if Canada were to make them fly again.
Expect the least-awful way to make this work, should it happen, would be to place the VH-71's at one of the four SAR bases, and displace Cormorants to the other three? Or would there be any benefits to splitting them up - different capabilities?
 

Journeyman

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jollyjacktar said:
I don't always agree with his views but this caught my attention.  Shared under the fair dealings provisions of the copyright act.
In October, 2011, SAR technician Sgt. Janick Gilbert and his crew were called to fly to Igloolik, Nunavut, to rescue a young man and his father stranded on the ice. Thirty minutes before sunset and total darkness, the SAR techs parachuted down into waves more than 10 feet high. The temperature was -8C and winds were gusting up to 60 kilometres an hour. Sgt. Gilbert landed the furthest from the liferaft and was found five hours later, floating lifeless in the water. He was posthumously awarded the Star of Courage for his actions.

Would new helicopters, based in southern Canada, have made the slightest difference?  No.

Nice way to self-servingly cash in on Sgt. Gilbert's death though.  ::) 
 

RubberTree

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A slight tangent but can anyone explain the numbers I've quoted below from the article:

"This is just one example of more than 10,000 SAR incidents that occur each year. Around 1,200 are considered life-and-death situations."

Is this world wide or strictly in Canada? I feel I am let to believe that we are speaking strictly about Canada but I have a hard time believing that SAR is activated that often.
 

mariomike

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RubberTree said:
A slight tangent but can anyone explain the numbers I've quoted below from the article:

"This is just one example of more than 10,000 SAR incidents that occur each year. Around 1,200 are considered life-and-death situations."

Is this world wide or strictly in Canada? I feel I am let to believe that we are speaking strictly about Canada but I have a hard time believing that SAR is activated that often.

CAF SAR is involved in the coordination of roughly 10,000 aeronautical and maritime incidents annually, tasking military aircraft in over 1,000 cases.
http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/operations-canada-north-america-current/sar-canada.page
 

Oldgateboatdriver

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Actually RubberTree, you would be amazed as much at the number of calls SAR receives as some of the types of call they get.

One of my reserve communication support clerk (wrens communicators before they could become sigs) was a civilian radio operator at RCC Quebec. Every year, for internal purpose, they made a compilation of the craziest distress calls they got during the year. She used to get me a copy.

Just a few for instance: American boater who had to be re-fueled three times on the St-Lawrence river because he had heard that the Coast guard doesn't charge you for the fuel when they rescue you. Third time was not a charm: Coast guard showed up with the RCMP and seized the boat. Another one: boater who had to be towed off rocks and sand bars five times in the same week again on the St-Lawrence river, between Sorel and the entrance of the Saguenay. It was  a stretch he had never sailed before and, get this, it turns out he was navigating using a provincial road map.

On the West Coast, there were so many distress calls for insignificant reasons from boats from the Oak Bay marina that the coast guard got them to acquire and operate their own "rescue" boat. I remember interrupting one of my Sea Readiness Inspection on a Gate vessel in front of Victoria to proceed to the location of such a distress call - then calling the Coast guard on a government side channel to tell them I was responding, where I was, and checking if they needed my assistance: That's when I learned about the "Oak Bay" distresses. The Coast Guard operator blankly asked me if I was new to the West Coast (which I pretty well was - and certainly so as a captain - as most of my sailing had been on the east coast).  ;D   
 
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