Leonardo Awarded Contract for Cormorant SAR Helicopter Mid-Life Upgrade Project

The Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade (CMLU) project will enhance the aircraft's systems and technologies with improvements including state-of-the-art avionics, a new glass cockpit, and wireless in-cabin communications


The Canadian Department of National Defense has awarded Leonardo a contract worth $1 billion CAN (€690 million) for the AW101/CH-149 Cormorant Mid-Life Upgrade (CMLU) Project.

The contract comprises 13 existing Cormorant Search and Rescue Helicopter (CSH) currently in-service and the augmentation of a further three aircraft. According to Leonardo, the contract will enhance the aircraft’s systems and technologies, ensure compliance with emerging airspace requirements, extend the life expectancy of the fleet to 2042 and beyond, and enable the return of Cormorant helicopters to the Main Operating Base (MOB) Trenton.

The program will be executed by Team Cormorant, a collaboration led by Leonardo with support from principle Canadian subcontractor IMP Aerospace and Defense together with GE Canada, and Collins Aerospace Canada. The majority of the CMLU work will be performed in Canada, primarily at IMP’s Halifax, N.S. facilities.

The CLMU Project will be expected to transition Canada’s AW101/CH-149 Cormorant SAR helicopter fleet to the latest standard currently being delivered for SAR in Norway. The CMLU Project will include; state-of-the-art avionics, a new glass cockpit, more powerful digitally-controlled engines, wireless in-cabin communications, the latest SAR sensors including Electro Optical Infra-Red device and Mobile Phone Detection Location System, enabling less search and more rescue. 

Alessandro Profumo, Chief Executive Officer of Leonardo, said: “Leonardo is proud to lead with our Team Cormorant partners the AW101/CH-149 Cormorant Search and Rescue helicopter fleet upgrade as announced by the Canadian Government. With the Cormorant helicopter the Government is getting the right equipment for the Canadian Forces, at the best price for Canadians, with the right benefits for Canadian industry.”

Gian Piero Cutillo, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters, commented: “The AW101/CH-149 Cormorant Search and Rescue helicopter fleet will provide the Royal Canadian Air Force with the sustainment of a robust, high-tech all weather SAR capability across Canada. The CMLU programme through Team Cormorant will reduce the cost of fleet ownership, while further increasing reliability, capability and safety for Canadian people.”

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