Thursday, November 20, 2014
Venerable Sea Kings a Testament--and a bigger embarrassment
Dave flew Sea Kings in 1966 from our last aircraft carrier, HMCS Bonaventure, during Maple Spring 66, a major exercise that covered the seas from Halfiax to Monetevideo. I was there too, watching the state-of-the-art Sea Kings do their stuff.
Fifty years of service. That they are still able to fly at all is a testament to the skill of their maintainers and aircrew. Back in 1966, I recall being shocked at the number of hours maintenance it took for every hour of flight--10 or 20 perhaps. What would it take now to keep these magnificent birds in the air for an hour--a hundred?
You might think the Sea Kings should have been replaced by now. You would be right. The defence department in the Mulroney era would--and did--agree with you. Jean Chretien, of course, couldn't countenance a Mulroney plan so he cancelled the order, resulting in a $500 million penalty.
Since then the Canadian government, and Canadian Forces, have not been able to get their act together. I couldn't put it better than did military historian Aaron Plamondon as quoted in an article in the National Post by Andrew Coyne: that the Sea King replacement saga is quite possibly "the most poorly executed military procurement ever undertaken--anywhere." Forty years after the need for a replacement helicopter was called for, the Sea Kings remain, albeit most of the time on the ground.