In an historic milestone for Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Harry DeWolf, a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter landed on its flight deck May 19, 2021.
In actual Arctic operations, it is intended that Harry DeWolf will operate helicopters from the Canadian Coast Guard or Royal Canadian Mounted Police. With almost no combat capability, embarking a CH-148 would be a waste of a combat resource.
Over the course of several weeks until early July, Harry DeWolf, the Royal Canadian Navy’s first Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS), will operate off the coast of Nova Scotia conducting Ship Helicopter Operating Limits (SHOL) trials.
These trials are a lengthy process to ensure helicopter operations are carried out safely and effectively. A calm sea state is needed and the Cyclone operates astern and from the sides of the ship to see how the winds interact with the helicopter, as well as to confirm there is no electronic or radar interference.
“Basically, the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment, a specialized group of engineers, pilots and technicians, needs to verify that Harry DeWolf will be safe to work with and land helicopters on our flight deck,” explains Lieutenant-Commander Jim Little, Harry DeWolf’s Executive Officer. “This work is extensive but critical in certifying the ship for helicopter operations not only with the Cyclone, but also with the multitude of Allied helicopters flown throughout the world.”
Like all air-capable Royal Canadian Navy ships, the necessity for Harry DeWolf to embark a full air detachment will be determined by requirements for helicopter support to complete any assigned mission.
For instance, when operating in the North, the helicopter will be used for ice surveillance and building the recognized maritime picture (RMP), as well as for transferring both personnel and parts. In a coalition supporting maritime interdiction operations, she will be used for RMP, boardings and similar logistical functions. In support of counter-narcotics operations, she will assist in evidence gathering, monitoring shipping and contributing to the RMP. As well, when assisting in a humanitarian assistance or disaster relief mission, she will increase the ship’s capacity to bring various lifesaving stores ashore such as water, food, tents and cots.
In all cases, an embarked helicopter will assist with search and rescue events, medical evacuation and resupply.
Little says helicopter operations are a little different in an AOPS compared to a Canadian Patrol Frigate (CPF).
With a flight deck in an AOPS that is three metres wider and about four meters longer than a CPF.
“That is significant, but you really don’t know quite how significant until you speak to a pilot who has operated from both platforms. They have commented how much more flight space to land and recover there is on an AOPS flight deck, but the expression on their faces says it all.”
Completion of SHOL trials will ensure the appropriate flight safety program is implemented, and that the Cyclone and other helicopters can safely operate from the deck. This greatly increases the capability of the ship in virtually all assigned missions.
Little says the capabilities of Harry DeWolf far outweigh anything he could have imagined.
“Whether it is working with the helicopter, operating in ice, launching its rescue boats, crane operations or operating in warm weather, the ship has the ability to conduct a wide range of missions and operations in support of Government of Canada and Canadian Armed Forces agreements and strategic objectives.”