Defence Minister Peter MacKay and associate defence minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay were on hand for the delivery of a CH-147F Chinook at the Ottawa International Airport on Thursday.
The helicopters are designed to move medium to heavy-sized loads of equipment and people during domestic and overseas missions, with politicians and military officials highlighting their ability to help with natural disasters.
“As initial crew training progresses, these new and much-improved Chinooks will certainly enhance the ability of the Canadian Armed Forces to conduct military operations wherever we are called to do so, including the rapid response to emergencies across Canada,” MacKay said in a news release.
“Our six older D-model Chinooks saved many Canadian and allied lives in Afghanistan by reducing the exposure to deadly IEDs on the ground,” said Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin, commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“These impressive new helicopters will also be a valuable addition to Canada’s tactical transport capability for many years to come.”
The Canadian model includes fuel tanks which will allow the aircraft to fly twice as far as past models, which according to the news release will be helpful for missions in Canada’s North.
The $5-billion contract for Boeing to provide and maintain 15 of the helicopters was signed in 2009.
Purchase criticized in 2010 report
The Chinooks, along with the purchase of 28 CH-148 Cyclones came under scrutiny from then-auditor general Sheila Fraser in the fall of 2010.
Fraser said in a report the Department of National Defence “underestimated and understated” the complexity of the contracts, describing them as non-developmental when “significant changes” were made to their basic models.
While the Chinooks have been delivered on the schedule announced in 2009, the Cyclones meant as a replacment to Canada’s aging Sea King helicopters have been repeatedly delayed.
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CBC News reported earlier this week Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose has ordered an independant consultation on the ability of Sikorsky to deliver on their $5-billion contract.
The government has also refused delivery of four interm helicopters because they allegedly aren’t up to par.
NDP points to 3-year contract gap
The New Democratic Party issued a release Thursday, attacking the Conservatives for their initial 2006 announcement of a $4.7-billion plan.
“These guys have set the bar so low, they think five years off schedule and millions over budget is worthy of a parade,” said NDP Military Procurement critic Matthew Kellway in the release.
“In these circumstances, any government committed to even the most modest management standards would be trying to find out what went wrong and how to improve — something the Conservatives have refused to do.”