Government of Canada invests in modernizing and growing its CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue fleet

News release

August 22, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

As outlined in Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, the Government of Canada is making investments to ensure the women and men of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) have the equipment they need to fulfill their missions, including search and rescue (SAR) operations.

In support of this priority, Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan announced in Comox, British Columbia investments in the search and rescue fleet of CH-149 Cormorant helicopters.

Through the investments announced, the fleet will receive at least two additional helicopters and be upgraded to extend its life to at least 2042. The project office will conduct this work with Leonardo S.p.A. in partnership with IMP Aerospace, and CAE.

Canada’s Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy applies to this project. It requires the contractor, Leonardo, to undertake economic activity in Canada equal to the value of the contract, which will provide opportunities to develop key industrial capabilities in Canada.

The CH-149 Cormorant provides a helicopter capability that allows search and rescue crews to conduct operations in areas not accessible by other helicopter fleets. Upgrading and enhancing this critical capability will ensure that it continues to be the reliable aircraft needed to conduct successful search and rescue operations in Canada’s challenging environment.


“Canadians rely on the women and men of the Royal Canadian Air Force to conduct successful search and rescue operations in challenging circumstances. These enhancements to the CH-149 Cormorant fleet will ensure that search and rescue crews have the right equipment to continue providing these life-saving services.”

Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence

“The government of Canada is committed to ensuring that the women and men who proudly serve our country, have the equipment they need to carry out their important work. Through this procurement we are extending the service life of the Cormorant fleet until 2042 and augmenting the number of aircraft available to ensure Canada’s ability to respond to incidents and keep Canadians safe.”

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility

“Through Canada’s Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy, our government is making sure that this project delivers jobs and economic benefits across the country. For every dollar Leonardo will receive as part of this contract, the company will invest one dollar back into our economy. This will ensure the company will continue to be a key contributor to our economic growth, creating more jobs for Canadians and spurring innovation.”

Navdeep Bains, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister

“Every year, the Royal Canadian Air Force flies about 1,000 missions in support of search and rescue, a core mission of the Canadian Armed Forces. These upgrades to the CH-149 Cormorant, and an increase in fleet size ensures the RCAF will continue to deliver search and rescue services in the challenging Canadian environment.”

Lieutenant-General A.D. Meinzinger, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force

Quick facts

  • As part of the National Search and Rescue Program, the Department of National Defence has the mandate to provide services in response to aeronautical incidents, provide support to maritime incidents, and co-ordinate the aeronautical and maritime SAR system.

  • The RCAF has a responsibility to maintain a SAR response capable of reaching those in distress anywhere in Canada on a 24/7 basis.

  • The Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade project is valued at up to $1.39 billion.

  • Leonardo S.p.A. is the CH-149 Cormorant’s original equipment manufacturer, and IMP Aerospace the in-service support contractor.

  • With this project, the CH-149s will be upgraded to the AW101-612 design which is the helicopter model recently procured by Norway for their search and rescue missions. Using an already established configuration accelerates the project considerably. Training solutions and related infrastructure will also be acquired.

  • In 2005, CH-149s from the Trenton main operating base were redistributed to Gander, Greenwood, and Comox. With the addition of at least two CH-149s to the fleet, Cormorants will return to Trenton and replace CH-146 Griffons in the SAR role.

  • CH-149s are currently based at 19 Wing Comox, 9 Wing Gander, and 14 Wing Greenwood.

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Todd Lan
Press Secretary 
Office of the Minister of National Defence

Media Relations
Department of National Defence
Phone: 613-996-2353

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