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Canada, Sikorsky argue over delayed maritime helos

  |   July 22, 2013 at 6:55 PM
OTTAWA, July 22 (UPI) -- Canada and Sikorsky appear mired in a dispute over what the Canadian military needs under a $5 billion contract and what it is being offered by the U.S. helicopter manufacturer.

In what a former defense minister called "the worst procurement in the history of Canada," the government refused to accept maritime helicopters being offered by Sikorsky, arguing that the new aircraft don't meet the needs of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Defense News reported.

Sikorsky is facing hefty government fines over delays in deliveries contracted under a 2004 deal for the supply of 28 Cyclone helicopters, Canadian media reported. Deliveries under the contract were supposed to have begun in 2009 but Sikorsky renegotiated the deal to reschedule the first delivery to June 2012, but that didn't happen.

The Cyclone, a maritime variant of Sikorsky's S-92, is to replace Canada's aging CH-124 Sea Kings, first deployed about 50 years ago. After the last delays in Cyclone deliveries, former Defense Minister Peter MacKay condemned the deal as "the worst procurement in the history of Canada."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government has been keen to blame the Sikorsky problems on previous Liberal administration, even as he took the rap for delays in other military procurement programs, including a planned F-35 Joint Strike Fighter purchase.

Independent consultants hired by Harper's government are looking into all major Canadian military deals after the F-35 fiasco.

The Sikorsky deal is especially under a spotlight because, officials say, the American company has not delivered a single helicopter that complies with Canadian specifications. The four helicopters offered in the interim were found to be incompatible with Canadian air force needs and were rejected.

The government has already faced sharp criticism from the Auditor General over the Cyclone acquisition. Officials in Canadian National Defense were openly reprimanded for failing to see risks related to cost and technical modifications of the aircraft.

Sikorsky is the prime contractor for the Cyclone project, while General Dynamics Canada Ltd. in Ottawa, and L-3 MAS, Mirabel, Quebec, are principal subcontractors.

Aviation Week said both the Department of National Defense and Sikorsky were still working at "the mess" of the Cyclone deal. Sikorsky says the four helicopters it offered are fit for training and it's on track to deliver the remaining 24.

The Cyclone, often described as a unique derivative of the commercial S-92, has had problems from the start with its design and later with its mission system.

Critics say further developments and modifications have changed the aircraft so much that it neither meets all the specifications the Canadian military wants incorporated into it nor bears resemblance to the original contract.

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