Our friend Stephan de Bruijn, with some assistance by Wim Sonneveld, provided us some details and exclusive pictures about a Royal Canadian Air Force CH-148 that visited the Netherlands.
For a two-week period, Naval Air Base De Kooy, in the Netherlands, hosted a very rarely seen (at least in Europe) Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CH-148 Cyclone helicopter. The Cyclone, a military customized version of the Sikorsky S-92 Helibus, arrived at the naval base during maintenance of its mother ship HMCS Halifax and a planned R&R of its crew, which is situated close to the Dutch naval port of Den Helder.
HMCS Halifax is part of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG 1) while the embarked CH-148, with serial 148805, is assigned to the Helicopter Air Detachment (HELAIRDET) of the frigate. The Cyclone originates from 12 Wing, 423 Maritime Helicopter Squadron that is based at CFB Shearwater, Nova Scotia, Canada, and was flown over to nearby De Kooy so it could continue training flights while the ship was in port.
In 2004, the Canadian Government placed an order for 28 Cyclones to support the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) with a planned Full Mission Capable (FMC) in 2012. Due to a number of serious developmental difficulties, the first CH-148 was only delivered in June 2015. Currently, there are 20x CH-148s operational within the RCAF while seven others are still not delivered. These seven are currently civil registered and assigned to the manufacturer. The first delivered batch of Cyclones to the RCAF were not delivered in the final configuration. But deliveries continued to the RCAF to prevent massive delays in the training programme. In the meantime, the FMC was already delayed to 2018. Late in 2019, the RCAF received enough FMC Cyclones, so they could perform their operations with the unique helicopter. Several first delivered helicopters were returned to Sikorsky for upgraded to FMC-standard. It is expected that by mid-2022, all 27 helicopters are delivered, resulting in a delay of ten years!
Unfortunately, one operational CH-148, serial 148822, embarked on HMCS Fredericton, was lost in a tragic crash in Ionian Sea (Greece) on Apr. 29, 2020. All six crew died on the scene.
The Sikorsky S-92 is well introduced in eleven countries in the civil aviation market: operators like Babcock, Bristow Helicopters (Norway and UK), Brunei Shell Petroleum, CHC Helicopter, China Southern Airlines, Cougar Helicopters, Gulf Helicopters, Heliservicio, Lider Aviaço, Petroleum Helicopters International, Slik Way Airlines, and Cougar Helicopters are using the type in mainly off-shore operations.
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But we must not forget that there are also some military operators and governmental users, the Kuwait Air Force operates the type with 91 Special squadron from Kuwait International. These are marked with “State of Kuwait” titles but are operated by the air force. The S-92 can also be found in Bahrain (Royal Air Wing), Ireland with the coast guard (operated by CHC), Japan (Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department), Morocco (Gendarmerie) Saudi Arabia (Ministry of Interior), South Korea (air force and the Republic of Korea Coast Guard), Thailand (air force), Turkey (governmental fleet), Turkmenistan (governmental fleet) and the United Kingdom (Babcock Mission Critical Services and the Coast Guard, operated by Bristow Helicopters).
Last but not least, the USA invested in a S-92 variant, the VH-92A, to transport the US President. Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 Blackjack which is based at NAS Patuxent River (MD) is involved in the test programme of the VH-92A and so far twelve are ordered (six in 2019, and six in February 2020). The Presidential fleet, assigned to HMX-1 at Marine Corps Air Facility (MCAF) Quantico (VA) with a detachment at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington D.C. (MD), will get 23 VH-92As, consisting of 21 operational fleet aircraft and two test aircraft. The VH-92A, is planned for Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in July 2021. That does not mean that the next generation of executive transport helicopters will be ready for its operational task as that decision will be made by the White House.
A big thank you to Stephan and Wim for the details about the RCAF CH-148. Make sure you have a look at Stephan’s Instagram @stephan_debruijn for some crazy cool shots he has taken during his trips all around the world!