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

Surrey School District forecasts up to 30 per cent of students will return to class this week

Education Minister Rob Fleming said on June 1, about 60,000 B.C. children returned to school

Video tribute to KPU’s spring grad class also honours Andrew Petter, Bill Wright

‘We still want to celebrate our graduates, their achievements, and their resilience’

Surrey baseball association loses ‘a true giant’ in Bruce Lawson

Longtime volunteer ‘always gave his heart and soul to Surrey Canadian and the game of baseball’

Surrey Mounties respond to report of shots fired in Cloverdale

They took 12 people into custody but found no evidence shots were actually fired

Clover Valley Beer Festival cancelled

Cloverdale beer fest falls victim to COVID-19

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Importance of accurate, ethical reporting more critical than ever

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Bateman program encourages people to sketch outside, connect with nature

#MyNatureSketch initiative encourages Canadians to become ‘bright-eyed three year olds’

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

Most Read