Cyclone Helo

The Cyclone Helicopter and the ‘Sonar Snafu’

On 22 December, Michael Tutton of the Canadian Press filed a report on difficulties experienced with the HELRAS tethered sonar installation on the ‘Block 1’ Cyclone helicopters.[1]  Apparently, there is a potential for a ‘trap strike’ between the sonar projector and the C-RAST, which is a new model of the former Helicopter Hauldown and Rapid Securing Device known as the Beartrap.  While newsworthy for those that follow the fleet introduction of the new helicopter, it is hardly surprising that as the aircraft is introduced, unanticipated problems have occurred.

The article goes on to note that Sikorsky will be redesigning the sonar system to avoid the problem in the remaining 14 helicopters and presumably this redesign will be incorporated in the current ‘Block 1’ aircraft.  So it appears that a problem was identified, a rectification is underway and until the rectification is complete, the aircraft are not permitted to land onboard HMC Ships with the sonar fitted.

This type of article leads to a larger critique of ‘sensational’ reporting of what is the normal iterative process in the acceptance and introduction of any new weapons system.  The so-called ‘sonar snafu’ is certainly not a critical design flaw and a more informed and balanced approach to the reporting of these issues would give the public a better feel for their relative importance.

Unfortunately, both the Cyclone and the Sea King are high visibility programs due to their associated political overtones.  Basically, a report such as the one referred to above which is really a ‘nothing burger’ in today’s parlance, gets top billing because of the negative impressions associated with these aircraft.  This is not to say that all is wine and roses – and significant problems may yet be revealed -- but the ‘sonar snafu’ hardly rises to that level.

If there is a story that has been underreported, it is the ambitious nature of the phase-out of the Sea King and the introduction of the Cyclone.  When the Sea King was introduced, there was a two-year pause before operations were carried out at sea.  In the case of the Cyclone, the Canadian maritime helicopter community is maintaining operational support to the navy with the Sea King while transitioning to the Cyclone.  Talk about walking and chewing gum at the same time!

So please, a little more balance on the part of the press and a little less suspicion on the part of the public.  When the lads and lassies get their hands on the Cyclone, they will ensure that they wring every last ounce of capability out of the platform as they did with the Sea King. You can count on it!

See Michael Tutton, “Cyclone Problem: Sonar Snafu a Challenge for Canada’s New Navy Helicopters,” National Post, 22 December 2017,


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