Canadian military helicopter crashes during NATO exercise

At least one crew member dead after CH-148 Cyclone crashes in Ionian Sea.

A Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone used by the Royal Canadian Air Force. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone used by the Royal Canadian Air Force.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
At least one person is dead after a Canadian military CH-148 Cyclone helicopter crashed in the Ionian Sea between Italy and Greece early Thursday morning while taking part in an exercise as part of a NATO operation in the Mediterranean.
"Contact was lost with the aircraft as it was participating in Allied exercises off the coast of Greece," the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) said in a brief statement.
The helicopter had been operating on board the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Fredericton as part of Operation Reassurance of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) when the incident occurred early on Thursday morning, the CAF said.
The SNMGs are a multinational, integrated maritime force made up of vessels from various allied countries that help to establish a NATO presence and strengthen deterrence. There are some 915 CAF personnel deployed on Operation Reassurance, making it Canada’s largest international military operation.
According to local Greek media, the helicopter crashed in international waters about 80 kilometers off the island of Cephalonia. An Italian and a Turkish frigate were reported to be taking part in the search and rescue operation, finding debris and one body.
Another five crew members are said to still be missing.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he had spoken with Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan and confirmed that rescue efforts were underway to find the crew of the helicopter.
“Search and rescue efforts are currently underway,” CAF tweeted Thursday morning, adding that the military has “contacted all primary family members of those who were on board the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter that was involved in an accident in the Mediterranean Sea.”
Canada’s fleet of Cyclone helicopters replaced the country’s aging fleet of Sea Kings after 54 years of service in 2018. They are tasked with surface and subsurface surveillance as well as search and rescue missions, while providing air support and tactical transport for national and international security efforts.
Manufactured by Sikorsky, the helicopters carry a crew of four, including two pilots, a tactical operator and a sensor operator, with space for several passengers.
The Canadian military only began to use the helicopter in 2018 after more than a decade of delays related to developmental challenges and cost overruns. The CAF was originally supposed to have received 28 Cyclones in November 2008 but the first helicopter was only delivered in 2015 and the country has so far only received 18.