Canada is offered a fully developed rescue helicopter. They can thank the Queen of Norway Sar for that

The advantages and disadvantages of ready-made versus tailor-made goods have been a much debated issue in Norwegian defense procurement in recent years.

Simply put, it is a question of whether to purchase fully developed defense equipment that is not necessarily one hundred percent adapted to Norwegian use, or whether to spend extra time and money acquiring “haute couture” equipment.

The topic rose, for example, when the K9 Vidar artillery was purchased for the Army, after leaving the Archer development partnership with Sweden.

German defense giant Rheinmetall also claimed earlier this year that “it is Norway’s defense procurement pattern that they are facing problems with the implementation of contracts that have avoided similar procurement in other countries”, in preparation for a case against the Armed Forces. The troops were then decided outside the courtroom.

When we talk about helicopters, many of them have come close to thinking that Norway was naive when the frigate and coast guard helicopter NH90 were ordered 19 years ago. On paper, there are many Norwegian-specific requirements for paper that must be met at suspiciously affordable prices with delivery after three to four years, in 2005-2008. The fact is that helicopters are still not in stages.

Queen Sar

When the new rescue helicopter to replace the Westland Sea King Mk43B was finally ordered seven years ago, it was the stated goal of reducing risk by not buying into any development projects, but buying as much ready-made stuff as possible.

Norway ended up with what is now called the AW101 Sar Queen, which appears to be a very capable rescue helicopter, but the level of available goods may be discussed. It is clear that development, testing and certification work contributed to the phasing out that began only now in September, two and a half years late, “helped” by the overthrow at Sola Airport three years ago.

Of course, there’s also the trade-off of getting a helicopter taking over an engine that’s been in operation for nearly 50 years, that it’s undesirable to buy equipment that is thrown away once it’s placed in the hangar. door.

After all, there’s so much of the latest scream technology in the AW101 Sar Queen that it seems like a minuscule advantage to coming as a second customer. At least that’s the implied message when the manufacturer is now selling the Norwegian variant to another party.

– Not a development project

This image is from September 20, 2004, several years after Canada entered service with the CH-149. This is at the Comox Squadron 442 base west of Vancouver. Photo: WO Peter Veldhuizen

In a press release issued by the North American arm of Leonardo Helicopters in early November, the Norwegian rescue helicopter procurement project (Nawsarh) was used as an argument when selling a mid-life upgrade on the Cormorant AW101/CH-149 helicopter to a Canadian decision-maker.

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has operated 14 CH-149s since 2001. The mid-life upgrade will ensure that the helicopters can remain operational until at least 2040. project now in what is called the definition phase.

The upgrade will take advantage of the design and development work that Leonardo has done on the latest generation AW101 currently being delivered to Norway, and which will provide Canada with significantly improved rescue capacity with proven technology, is a message from Leonardo.

The helicopter manufacturer stressed that for Canada this would not be a development project, but a use of commercially available technology. Thanks to the design and development work done for the Norwegian Nawarh project, Canada is offered a solution here that delivers a lot of value for money and minimal risk.

In addition, in the long term there will also be an advantage for Norway that there will be a standard common configuration across several AW101 carriers. Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace also has more maintenance and repair (MRO) duties than ever on dynamic components as well on the Canadian AW101.


At the Farnborough exhibition in the summer of 2018, Leonardo used an AW101-612 painted in Norwegian rescue service colors as an eye-catcher under the slogan “the best rescue helicopter in the world – by a good margin”. The manufacturer’s plans have long used the “Norwegian standard” as the basis for future rescue helicopters and midlife updates to existing customers.

For Canada, the upgrade will include two main components that are new in the Norwegian version: the Aesa radar and digital autopilot (DAFC).

The AW101-612 Sar Queen was put into service at the 330 Squadron’s main base in Sola on 1 September 2020. Photo: Eirik Heland Urke

The Osprey is called the aesa radar (“electrically active/electronically scanned array”), which with its lightning-fast 360-degree scanning and ability to detect small targets, among other things makes it much more suitable for spotting anything floating above and below. marine rather than mechanical search radar.

In addition to the Osprey 30, there are also other new sensors in the AW101-612 related to air resistance warning: Three cap sensors on the main rotor head (“Obstacle Proximity LiDAR System”, OPLS) and one laser sensor on the muzzle (“Laser Obstacle Avoidance and Monitoring”. “, LOAM) and of course the latest generation EO/IR camera (Flir Star Safire 380-HDc) including shortwave (SWIR).

This version also has three cameras placed in the tail, under the belly and in the rescue lift. These are tools that contribute to understanding the situation and, for example, can provide answers if you suspect something is wrong with some machines. If pilots so desire, they can get a three-dimensional reproduction of the terrain they are flying in on one of the screens, using a database of terrain and sensor data in what is called a “synthetic vision system”.

The CH-149 upgrade will also include the replacement of the current GE T700/CT7-6A1 with the more powerful CT7-8E engine that the Norwegian helicopter has (1,884 kW / 2,527 shp). A modernized cockpit and upgraded rescue lift are also on the RCAF list.

It has to be said that Canada also had a hand in the challenging helicopter development program: the CH-148 Cyclone couldn’t really be canceled, all the time Canada was alone in the world about a maritime helicopter based on the Sikorsky S-92. There have been major delays, and earlier this year one of them crashed while landing on the frigate HMCS Fredericton off the coast of Greece. Initial reports stated that the helicopter did not respond as the crew expected in the final maneuver against the deck.

Jackson Wintringham

"Coffee aficionado nerd. Troublemaker. General communicator. Gamer. Analyst. Creator. Total brew ninja."

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