Cyclone chopper takes flight

Two CH-148 Cyclones soared over Halifax harbour on Friday, marking a critical step in the oft-delayed rollout of the Canadian military's fleet of new maritime helicopters.

The state-of-the-art helicopters hugged the Nova Scotia coastline in an aerial showcase put on by the Royal Canadian Air Force, days before one of the helicopters is scheduled to head out on its first international deployment — and about 10 years after the first Sikorsky machine was to be delivered to the military.

Jason Miller, a spokesman for 12 Wing Shearwater in Halifax, said the Cyclone will deploy with the frigate HMCS Ville de Quebec on Wednesday, with an air detachment crew from 423 Maritime Helicopter Squadron.

The vessel is slated to relieve HMCS St. John's in Operation Reassurance, an ongoing multinational NATO mission in the Mediterranean.

The deployment of the twin-engine Cyclone marks a significant milestone for the ship-borne maritime helicopters, which are replacing the geriatric CH-124 Sea Kings. In January, the East Coast fleet of Sea Kings was retired after 54 years of service.

The air force was showcasing the CH-148 before its deployment, saying the aircraft is a faster, state-of-the-art replacement.

The Cyclone fleet will be tasked with surface and sub-surface surveillance, and search and rescue missions, while providing "tactical transport for national and international security efforts," according to the military. Its aluminum and composite airframe is built with lightning-strike and high-intensity radio frequency pulse protection.

The Cyclone can fly in temperatures ranging from -51 C to 49 C.

"It is an amazing machine," Dan Ross, a former assistant deputy minister of defence materiel, said from Ottawa. "You push one button and all the complex rotor head and tail all fold in like a transformer. All the latest technology has been built up into it."

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