Back in 1991, Canada’s Mulroney government sold the country’s CH-47 Chinook medium-lift helicopter fleet to the Dutch. They cost a lot to maintain and operate, and Canada didn’t need them anyway. Or so they thought. Fast forward to 2002, then 2006. Canada has had boots on the ground in Afghanistan for several years now, but doesn’t have any helicopters capable of operating in the hot and/or high-altitude environment of southern Afghanistan. To support its 2,000 or so troops in Afghanistan, Canada had to rely on favors from US, British, Australian, Polish, and – irony of ironies – Dutch pilots flying CH-47 Chinooks.
Even so, Canada’s “emergency” purchases for Operation Archer never included helicopters. It should have come as a relief, therefore, to learn in June 2006 that the Canadian government had announced a CDN$ 4.7 billion program to purchase 16 “medium-heavy” helicopters for military and “disaster response” roles. It should have, but it didn’t. It took 21 months after this helicopter program was announced before a sole-source RFP was even issued. DID explains the Afghan situation on the ground for Canadian forces, the RFP, the options, the problems, the ultimatum issued by Canada’s Parliament, and the contract(s) for new CH-47F/ CH-147 helicopters.