New Cyclone helicopter takes to the skies before first international deployment

Two of the Canadian military's CH-148 Cyclone helicopters soared over Halifax harbour Friday morning, days before one of the maritime helicopters heads out on its first international deployment.

Military spokesman Jason Miller says the fully operational Cyclone will deploy aboard the frigate HMCS Ville de Quebec on Wednesday with an air detachment crew from 423 Maritime Helicopter Squadron, based at 12 Wing Shearwater in Halifax.

The Halifax-class warship is slated to relieve HMCS St. John's in Operation Reassurance, an ongoing multinational NATO mission in the Mediterranean.

The deployment of the Cyclone marks a significant step for the ship-borne helicopters, which are replacing the geriatric CH-124 Sea King fleet that was retired on the East Coast earlier this year.

The Royal Canadian Air Force was showcasing the helicopter before its deployment, saying the aircraft is a faster, state-of-the-art, twin-engine machine.

The first interim Cyclone arrived at Shearwater in May 2011, but that model was for ground-based training only, with the rollout of the fleet beset by delays and a snafu late last year with its sonar system.

After selecting the Cyclone in 2003, the federal government signed a $5-billion contract with U.S.-based Sikorsky to buy 28 aircraft, the first of which was supposed to arrive at Shearwater in 2008.