A Cyclone helicopter flies over HMCS Fredericton as its crew leaves the Halifax Harbour for a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea as part of NATO’s Operation Reassurance in Halifax on Monday, January 20, 2020. Defence officials are scrambling following reports a Canadian military helicopter has gone missing while participating in a NATO operation in the Mediterranean Sea.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Canadian military helicopter missing while operating in Mediterranean: DND

Helicopter went missing in the sea between Greece and Italy while operating off a Canadian frigate

The Canadian military was scrambling for answers Wednesday after losing contact with one of its new Cyclone helicopters, with reports that at least one person was killed when it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.

The Cyclone was deployed onboard the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Fredericton and was participating in a NATO exercise off the coast of Greece when the incident occurred, according to the Canadian Armed Forces.

“Search and rescue efforts are currently underway,” the military said in a statement. “As this is evolving, we have no further information to provide at this time.”

The Royal Canadian Air Force’s Cyclone helicopters carry a crew of four, including two pilots, a tactical operator and a sensor operator with space for several passengers. They are primarily based on naval vessels and used for hunting submarines, surveillance and search and rescue.

Greek state broadcaster ERT was first to report that a Canadian military helicopter had gone down in the water between Italy and Greece. The broadcaster later said one body had been found and five others onboard were missing.

HMCS Fredericton left Halifax with the Cyclone for a six-month deployment to Europe in January. While the navy has since recalled several of its warships due to COVID-19, the Fredericton has continued its mission.

The vessel made a port call in Italy in March and was scheduled to visit Greece as well as the Black Sea. It is currently one of eight warships attached to NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2, which are responsible for providing a visible military presence in the Mediterranean.

The crash of a Cyclone helicopter would represent a terrible blow for the military, which only started using them on real missions in late 2018 after more than a decade of developmental challenges, delays and cost overruns.

It is also likely to raise questions about the aircraft.

The military was originally supposed to have received 28 Cyclones from manufacturer Sikorsky starting in November 2008. But the first helicopter wasn’t delivered until June 2015 and even then, they were missing vital equipment and software and only suitable for training.

In 2012, Peter MacKay, who was then defence minister, described the Cyclone deal in 2012 as “the worst procurement in the history of Canada.” MacKay is now a candidate in the Conservative leadership race.

More recently, defence officials have more recently praised the aircraft — of which only 18 have been delivered so far — as it has replaced the military’s ancient Sea King and started real operations. That is despite one having been damaged last year when it had a “hard landing” in the Pacific Ocean.

“Getting this helicopter fielded was a long and winding journey and it’s been a great thing to actually get those helicopters on the ships,” said defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“If one did crash, they would obviously need to do an investigation to figure out why because there’s any number of different things that could potentially have happened, some of which may have had to do with why the helicopter took a long time to be introduced.”

— with files from The Associated Press.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Armed ForcesCanada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘I knew what he wanted’: Man recalls black bear chasing him up tree in Slocan Valley

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

No passenger flights at West Kootenay Regional Airport until at least September

This is the third time Air Canada has announced changes to flight operations out of the airport

Powerful thunderstorms called for the West Kootenay this weekend

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement Thursday afternoon.

Morning Start: 180 different bird species exist in Kootenay National Park

Here is your Kootenays’ morning start for Friday, May 29

Nakusp RCMP seize large quantity of drugs during seach warrant on May 27

The warrant was conducted in the 300th block of 8th Avenue NW

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Most Read