OTTAWA — The Canadian military says it has lost contact with one of its helicopters in the Mediterranean.
In a statement, the military says the aircraft from HMCS Fredericton went missing during an exercise off the coast of Greece.
It says a search-and-rescue operation is underway.
NATO spokeswoman Col. Juanita Chang earlier confirmed an incident involving a helicopter from a ship under NATO command.
Chang did not reveal the nationality of the aircraft or vessels.
HMCS Fredericton left Halifax for a six-month deployment around Europe in January with one of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s new Cyclones on board.
While the navy has recalled several of its warships due to COVID-19, the Fredericton has continued with 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 be 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.
Defence officials have more recently praised the aircraft, only 18 of which have so far been delivered, 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.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press