A Royal Canadian Navy helicopter went down on Wednesday in the Ionian Sea, Greece, during a NATO exercise.
The CH-148 Cyclone helicopter was carrying six servicemembers (four crew and two passengers). Contact with the aircraft was lost approximately 50 nautical miles west of the Greek island of Kefalonia. As of Thursday morning, the search-and-rescue (SAR) attempts have recovered the body of one person; the fate of the other five people onboard is unknown.
Initially, the Italian Air Force and Navy unilaterally conducted the SAR efforts. However, on Thursday morning, a Hellenic Navy S-70 Sikorsky joined the SAR efforts after a request from NATO.
The CH-148 that went down was the organic air asset of HMCS Fredericton, a Halifax-class frigate.
In a statement on Twitter, the Canadian Armed Forces stated,
“[there is a] developing situation regarding our CH-148 Cyclone, deployed onboard HMCS Fredericton, which is currently contributing to Operation Reassurance. Contact was lost with the aircraft as it was participating in Allied exercises off the coast of Greece. Search and rescue efforts are currently underway. As this is evolving, we have no further information to provide at this time.”
The Canadian Armed Forces also stated that they have contacted the next of kin for all members onboard the helicopter.
The CH-148 Cyclone. It replaced the CH-124 Sea King (Image courtesy of Sikorsky).
The CH-148 Cyclone is quite new, having entered service with the Canadian Armed Forces in 2018. It is designed to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), SAR, and anti-submarine warfare operations. The aircraft can also provide tactical transportation during maritime operations. This is what the helicopter was most probably conducting, considering the additional passengers it was carrying, when it went down.
HMCS Fredericton is currently serving in NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2). The Alliance’s maritime task force is comprised of nine vessels coming from five countries (Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Turkey).
NATO has four Standing Maritime Groups (two destroyer/frigate and two mine countermeasures groups). They make up the maritime component of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).
According to NATO, the Standing Maritime Groups “perform a wide range of tasks ranging from deterrent presence and situational awareness to exercises and the conduct of operational missions. These groups provide NATO with an immediate operational response capability both in peacetime and in crisis.”