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Ottawa finalizes revised contract to deliver Cyclone choppers, retire Sea Kings

OTTAWA - Multiple sources say the Harper government has formally signed a deal to amend its contract with the U.S. manufacturer of the long-delayed Cyclone maritime helicopters.

The information comes from several defence and government sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

They say the agreement with Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., signed today, paves the way for the retirement next year of Canada’s outdated fleet of Sea King choppers.

The inability of the Conservatives to replace the anti-submarine helicopters, which are more than 50 years old and operate primarily off the decks of navy frigates, has been a huge political embarrassment.

One senior defence official says the Cyclones — also known as CH-148s — are expected to be delivered in 2015, to begin limited operational missions from warships early the following year.

As many as six pilots are already qualified to fly the aircraft, four of which have been parked at the military air base in Shearwater, N.S.; training will ramp up once the new choppers are delivered.

It’s the second time the government has negotiated a contract amendment with Sikorsky, which has missed previous deadlines to deliver completed helicopters, accruing more than $88 million in penalties in the process.

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