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A Royal Canadian Air Force Cormorant helicopter from 103 Search and Rescue Squadron based at 9 Wing Gander takes off from the airport in Deer Lake, N.L.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Canada’s defence minister travelled to Halifax Thursday to tout a major subcontract as part of the $1.2-billion upgrade of the military’s fleet of search-and-rescue helicopters.

Anita Anand announced that IMP Aerospace and Defence is to deliver 13 upgraded Cormorant helicopters to the Canadian Armed Forces following work done at its Halifax facilities.

Under the revitalization deal first announced in December, the main contractor – Leonardo U.K. Ltd. – is to build three new helicopters to increase the size of the Cormorant fleet to 16.

“The Cormorant fleet has been serving Canada since 2001 … but it requires upgrades to remain operationally effective,” Anand told a gathering at an IMP hangar near Halifax Stanfield International Airport. “The fleet will be upgraded to the most advanced version of the helicopter.”

Officials weren’t specific about the impact on local employment, saying only that the subcontract would mean hundreds of jobs for the company. Anand did say the Cormorant upgrade project has the potential to contribute nearly $79 million annually to Canada’s GDP and sustain 650 jobs a year for Canadian companies over a 12-year period.

Delivery of the upgraded helicopters is expected to begin in 2026 after work to improve the aircraft’s internal navigational and communications systems, among other upgrades.

David Gossen, president of IMP Aerospace, called the subcontract a “strategic win” for his company. “First and foremost, it will create hundreds of jobs, and secondly, it increases our technology base,” Gossen said.

He said the agreement would see his company’s technicians and engineers trained on the helicopter’s latest technology at Leonardo’s facilities in the United Kingdom. “They will bring home that know-how, and they will position us for future work,” he said.

The federal government’s contract with Leonardo includes $1.168 billion for work on the helicopter, while $78 million will go toward the purchase of a training simulator from Montreal-based CAE Inc.

Cormorants are currently used to conduct search-and-rescue missions out of Comox, B.C., Gander, N.L., and Greenwood, N.S. The addition of three more helicopters is expected to see the fleet expand to include operations out of Trenton, Ont.

Federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, the regional minister for Nova Scotia, said the modernization of the helicopter fleet will increase capabilities of the Armed Forces.

“This is the kind of thing that’s going to support men and women in uniform by making sure they’ve got new and reliable equipment,” he said in an interview from Ottawa. “But it’s also going to ensure that the search and rescue needs that the military may be called in to support are going to be improved.”

Fraser, whose riding includes the IMP facility, said the new contracts will pump millions of dollars into the local economy.

“This is good news from a public safety point of view, and it’s great news for our local economy, with hundreds of people who are going to be working at good-paying jobs at IMP.”

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