The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) is set to officially retire the CH-124 Sea King helicopter fleet after serving for 55 years.

New CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopters will replace the Sea King ship-borne maritime helicopter by the end of this year.

Sikorsky is under a contract to deliver 28 CH-148s as part of the RCAF’s $5.7bn Maritime Helicopter Project (MHP).

RCAF commander lieutenant-general Al Meinzinger said: “The retirement of the CH-124 Sea King is truly historic for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

“No other fleet has served as long as the Sea King, and its 55 years of service are a monument not only to its durability and capability, but to the men and women who operated, maintained and otherwise supported this incredible helicopter.”

“Canada’s Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force continue to forge ahead with an exciting new chapter, marked by the first operational deployment of Avalanche.”

Originally procured by the Royal Canadian Navy for anti-submarine warfare in 1963, the Sikorsky-built twin-engine amphibious helicopter has been deployed to participate in a wide range of mission roles both at home and around the world.

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It is capable of conducting international maritime operations, search and rescue, disaster relief, counter-narcotics operations, counter-piracy, and pollution and fisheries patrols.

In total, the CH-124 Sea King fleet has flown more than 550,000 hours cruising at a speed of 162km/h.

Royal Canadian Navy commander vice-admiral M F Ron Lloyd said: “The Royal Canadian Navy has been well served by the Sea King, our longest range weapon and sensor, for decades. It was an honour to fly with the crew of Black Horse, the helicopter deployed with HMCS St John’s, during the Sea King’s last operational deployment supporting Nato assurance measures this summer.

“Canada’s Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force continue to forge ahead with an exciting new chapter, marked by the first operational deployment of Avalanche, the Cyclone helicopter currently deployed on Nato operations with HMCS Ville de Quebec.”

The RCAF will soon complete its transition to the new CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter.