Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade


CH-149 Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade and 519 Conversion Program

The CH-149 Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade (CMLU) and 519 Conversion Program is a proposal by ‘Team Cormorant’ to upgrade and expand the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAFs) Rotary Wing Search and Rescue (RWSAR) Cormorant fleet. The CMLU program will provide Canada with one of the most advanced and capable Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters available today, capable of meeting Canada’s SAR mandate in the most effective, expedient and low risk manner.



Team Cormorant 

Originally set up to support the CH-149 SAR helicopter acquisition program, Team Cormorant is now re-established with a collaboration between Leonardo Helicopters (the Original Equipment Manufacturer), IMP Aerospace & Defence (the Prime Contractor for Cormorant In-Service Support), and Canadian aerospace companies including; CAE, GE Canada and Rockwell Collins Canada. Team Cormorant will support the upgrade of the current fleet of 14 Cormorant helicopters (EH101-511/CH-149) and the conversion of additional VH-71 (AW101-519) helicopters to augment the fleet.



Current Situation

Canada has successfully performed SAR operations with the Cormorant since its entry into service in the early 2000’s, during this time the fleet has accumulated over 76,000 hours in operation. The Cormorant has now reached a point where obsolescence issues are impacting operational availability and introducing risk to long term RWSAR capability. With an average life of 16 years and over 5,000 hours per helicopter, the fleet requires an immediate update to ensure the SAR missions can be effectively conducted to 2040 and beyond.




The Objective

The objective of the program is to continue to save lives in Canada, through:

  • Re-introduce the Cormorant RWSAR capability for the Great Lakes region from RCAF 8 Wing Trenton;
  • Sustain a robust all weather SAR capability across Canada including the North through to 2040 and beyond;
  • Incorporate product improvements that reduce the cost of maintenance, while increasing reliability, capability and safety;
  • Introduce new technologies that result in enhanced reliability and increased availability;
  • Provide an innovative support scheme, covering: component repair and overhaul, material, maintenance, management, technical documentation and training, whilst reducing the long term cost of ownership;
  • Address obsolescence issues through commonality of equipment.



The Proposal

Given the pressing obsolescence risk, the CMLU program will assure continued airworthiness, SAR mission effectiveness and availability through the introduction of latest generation technology together with improvements in maintainability and reliability. The CMLU and Conversion program presents a low risk, cost effective solution for Canada to optimize its RWSAR capability.


It will result in a single common fleet and will provide capability improvements to enhance overall mission effectiveness, incorporate the latest avionic and mission systems, advanced radars, latest technology sensors, vision enhancement and tracking systems.


The EH101-519 Conversion will ensure maximum commonality with the upgraded Cormorant and allow Canada to expand the RCAFs SAR fleet without reducing aircraft availability. At the same time the CMLU and Conversation programs provide an opportunity to introduce an innovative support scheme, with a significant reduction in unscheduled maintenance and improved reliability of key equipment.


A Full Mission Simulator (FMS) and other state-of-the-art training aides are proposed as part of this program to meet Canada’s training requirements. The aircrew will be able to train for landing, takeoff, SAR duties, night flights, formation flights and cockpit familiarization in normal and emergency situations.




Learn more about AW101



Leonardo welcomes Government of Canada Intention to move forward with AW101 Solutions for CH-149 Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade and Fleet Augmentation

Leonardo welcomes Government of Canada Intention to move forward with AW101 Solutions for CH-149...

Leonardo welcomes the Government of Canada's intention to proceed with the CH-149 Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade Program (CMLU) to be carried out by the Company to deliver a comprehensive upgrade to Canada's AW101...