Friday, February 10, 2006

A popsicle stick, a pocket knife, and some chewing gum

Babble on.

Geez, the new medium-to-heavy-lift helos envisioned in the Defence Policy Statement last year can't come soon enough.

It seems the CF has decided to take some of the more decrepit Sea Kings - the ones the ships don't want - and convert them into twelve-seat troop transports.

The contingency task force needed helicopters to be able to ferry soldiers from ship to shore. With nothing else in the inventory to fill the bill, it was decided to convert the Sea Kings.

"We need . . . to have the proper air connectors to be able to take a force from ship to shore and that requires the kind of lift capability that a modified Sea King could provide," said Lt.-Col. Danny Houde, of the directorate of air strategic planning.

The conversion project is straightforward, said Maj. Max Shaw, weapons system manager for the Sea Kings.

"The first part is take the passive acoustics systems out," he said. "Then the other two main elements are adding additional troop seats and adding radios that are compatible with talking to the soldiers."

The $5.5-million project will also eventually install engine filters to improve the chopper's performance in dusty conditions.

Max is a friend (two in the news in two days?), and if anyone can make it work, he can. A very competent individual, Maj Shaw. Positively Macgyver-esque. But this will be a stretch, even for him and his superhuman aircraft maintenance crews.

These helicopters are intended for use in a "quick-reaction force", but is it realistic to expect the worthy but overflown Sea Kings to be able to handle that job? With over thirty hours of maintenance required for each hour of flight, will they be flyable in an emergency when we need them? Moreover, it's dangerous enough to fly them with five crew members, let alone putting twelve more souls on board. How many soldiers, untrained as the chopper crew were, would have made it out of the frigid waters off Denmark this week?

This is a dangerous stop-gap. I trust our uniformed personnel to do the job, even when it's a perilous one, but I wish they didn't have to do it like this.

And a hat-tip for bringing the story to my attention goes to - I can't believe I'm saying this - Robert. Egad.

Babble off.


At 9:07 p.m., Blogger Pat Patterson said...

The passive acoustic systems sound an awful lot like an euphemism for the co-pilot.

At 1:25 p.m., Blogger Mark Dowling said...

what would you think about farming out SAR to CHC (as Ireland has done, to the same company) and redeploying SAR helicopters assets to shore up the CF's other duties before the H-92s arrive?

It's a loss of function to CF but not really a militarily necessary one.

At 9:38 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Mark, that's a very interesting idea. Practically speaking, I don't see much reason we couldn't get out of SAR - other than the fact that I hate seeing military competencies lost. Much tougher to grow them back from scratch if you need them again (like wartime rescue ops).

But that only works if you're getting out of the SAR business long-term. Otherwise, you're moving assets - both people and equipment - around too much to be effective.

As much as I hate to say it, this is the best option we have, stop-gap though it is. Unless, we can find a time-machine and go back four or five years and start a heavy-lift helicopter procurement...


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