Thursday, November 20, 2014

Venerable Sea Kings a Testament--and a bigger embarrassment

My friend Dave Critoph sent me the image at left. It speaks for itself--it's the cover of a booklet celebrating 50 years of service by the Sea Kings on behalf of the Royal Canadian Navy.
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You might think the Sea Kings should have been replaced by now.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.


Lamont said...

Not a good situation.

Robert Mackay said...

It is understandable that Canadians don't always have the defense of our country at top of mind. But it is unforgivable that the government does not. And the aggressive posturing in the international arena is downright embarrassing.

Lamont said...

We have to have replenishment capabilities so what do we do, lease a ship? At a huge expense? How long does it take a crew to become familiar with its operation?

Robert Mackay said...

Good questions. A lease or purchase would fill the bill, and good deals are likely available. Crew training would not be a huge issue.

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