January 24, 2019 – After six months away on Operation Reassurance, 21 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force who deployed as the first Helicopter Air Detachment to operate and maintain a CH-148 Cyclone during deployed operations returned to Halifax January 21, 2019.
Last July, the CH-148 Cyclone from 12 Wing Shearwater embarked in HMCS Ville de Quebec along with the ship’s HELAIRDET. The detachment comprised eight aircrew, one mission support member, and 12 technicians from the aviation systems, avionics systems, aircraft structures, and air weapons trades.
HMCS Ville de Quebec’s embarked Cyclone flew more than 500 hours in 170 missions that included surveillance and maritime security patrols, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare sorties, passenger and cargo transfers, and general-purpose machinegun-firing proficiency, as well as training for the HELAIRDET and for various teams from across many of the ship’s departments.
“This first operational deployment of the Cyclone has been a great experience for the members of the HELAIRDET and myself, as we have all been involved in the Cyclone project for many years,” says Major Erik Weigelin, the ship’s HELAIRDET commander. “The Maritime Helicopter community has long been waiting to finally see the Sea King replacement in action. The Cyclone has performed beyond our expectations for a first deployment and that success is a direct result of the motivation and dedication of the members of the detachment. To be the ones who deliver the new ‘Wings for the Fleet’ was a great honor.”
Operation Reassurance is Canada’s contribution to NATO’s assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe. HMCS Ville de Quebec, the HELAIRDET, and CH-148 Cyclone (call sign “Avalanche”) were assigned to Standing NATO Maritime Group 2. In October, they participated in Exercise Trident Juncture, which provided the opportunity to work and train with naval ships, submarines, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft from Canada, Norway, Spain, Japan, the United States, and the Netherlands.
“To achieve this level of success and interoperability with our Allies on the first operational deployment of the CH-148 Cyclone is outstanding and reflects the collective results of years of hard work,” says Lieutenant-Colonel Cory Kwasny, 423 Maritime Helicopter Squadron’s commanding officer. “The Detachment set a strong foundation for 12 Wing to build upon as we continue to develop the capacity of the aircraft and, more importantly, has shown us that the future of maritime helicopter aviation in Canada is looking great.”
This deployment was a collection of firsts for the Cyclone. For example, the HELAIRDET’s technicians carried out the first-ever 400-hour inspection. This would have been impressive if they had conducted the inspection while operating at their home base, but these technicians were also faced with the unique challenges associated with operating in the constrained environment of the hangar of a warship at sea.
“It has been an incredible and rewarding opportunity to share the experience of the first CH-148 deployment during Operation Reassurance,” says Master Warrant Officer Shane Ringer, the HELAIRDET’s maintenance crew chief. “I am very proud of what the HELAIRDET has achieved, specifically ensuring that the CH-148 capability was readily available to Ville de Québec Command and that the Cyclone program as a whole will benefit from our experiences. The HELAIRDET and its close working relationship with 12 Wing, the weapons system manager, the in-service support contractors, and Sikorsky personnel have proven that hard work, dedication, and determination enable extraordinary accomplishments.”
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