Readiness a Problem for Canada’s Aircraft
Figures laid before the Canadian Senate’s Security and Defence Committee are calling the readiness of Canada’s maritime airframes into serious question. This is not a surprise when fleets are composed of aircraft that are 30 years old, or older. It is a surprise when that record is shared by a new platform.
Despite a slew of upgrades that recently got 2 of its P-3/CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft sent to map key areas in Afghanistan, only 45% (9/20) are available at any one time. That fleet’s other duties include patrolling Canada’s long Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Ocean coasts. Its 1960s-era H-3/CH-124 Sea Kings, which have been described as “10,000 nuts and bolts flying in formation,” have an availability rate of just 35.7% (10/28).
These kinds of problems are not uncommon in aging aircraft. In November 2008, Canada ordered ASLEP partial wing replacement kits for its CP-140s, as part of an effort to keep its fleet serviceable. Meanwhile, several of its C-130E/H Hercules aircraft, which can also be pressed into SAR (search-and-rescue) duties if required, have exceeded a staggering 40,000 flight hours. They are due for replacement by C-130J Super Hercules planes, just as the Sea King helicopters are due for eventual replacement by Sikorsky’s delayed H-92/CH-148 Cyclone.
The most surprising figure involves Canada’s new EH101/CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue helicopters, whose maintenance is handled by IMP Group Ltd. At present, only 50% (7/14) can be called upon for duty at any given time. This is surprising for a new aircraft, but it is congruent with other countries’ experiences. Britain’s Conservative Party issued a January 2008 release that cited the “fit for service” readiness of their EH101 Merlin Mk1 (Navy) and Mk3 (Army) fleets at just 43-55%.