Former U.S President George W. Bush began a replacement program for the Marine One helicopters, which fly either the VH-3D Sea King or the VH-60N Whitehawk. The VH-71 Kestrel was selected as the appropriate replacement.
|The Lockheed Martin VH-71, in testing in Owego, New York. File Photo.|
By February 2009, the program cost had risen to over $13 billion for 28 helicopters, and President Barack Obama looked at cancelling the program. The US Navy came to the same conclusion, and in June 2009, cancelled the program, after investing more than $4.4 billion and accepting delivery of 9 VH-71's.
Shortly after the US Navy cancelled the program, it sold the 9 helicopters and more than 800,000 spare parts to the RCAF for $164 million. The RCAF initially intended to strip the 9 VH-71's for spare parts for its AugustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant SAR helicopters. The VH-71 was a variant of AugustaWestland's AW101, as is the CH-149 - so they use similar parts.
|RCAF CH-149 Cormorant over Nova Scotia. Photo: DND|
If the RCAF moves forward with this plan, the VH-71's will need some retrofitting. Including having side sliding doors installed, and an upgrade to the cockpit, so it is closer to the CH-149. An AugustaWestland spokesman said, the company has always supported converting the VH-71's into SAR helicopters, and would be happy to help the RCAF in its retrofit.
Canada currently has 14 SAR Cormorant helicopters, and the 7 VH-71's would increase that total to 21, which would help for increased coverage in the Arctic.
The RCAF is still studying the option, and breaking down the cost effectiveness of the plan.