Repairs to BRONCO showcase cooperation between RCN, RCAF and USAF

By Captain Alex Chatwin

On February 6, 2019, aircraft CH148824 (call-sign BRONCO) left 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron in Patricia Bay, B.C., and embarked Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Regina from Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Esquimalt.

In a historic milestone for each unit, Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) employed a CH-148 Helicopter Air Detachment (HELAIRDET) for the first time and sailed west to fight as one. Embodying new technology including advanced radar and sonar systems and electronics, as well as search and rescue and utility capacities, BRONCO’s heightened integration was swiftly embraced, as it brings a leap in capability for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

After HMCS Regina sailed west from Hawaii, on February 19, the CH-148 experienced a hard landing under challenging operating conditions, and sustained enough damage to require a significant Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) response. Technicians and support personnel were brought together from HMCS Regina, 443 MH Sqn, 12 Air Maintenance Squadron, 423 Maritime Helicopter Squadron, 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, an Aircraft Engineering Officer, Sea Training (Atlantic) and Sikorsky representatives.

These teams formed a mobile repair party on the remote island of Guam to cohesively execute around-the-clock repairs. Special thanks to 12 Wing, 14 Wing, Combined Air Operations Centre, and 429 Squadron for their rapid mobility support.

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The team’s success can be attributed to individuals’ attitudes and solidarity of purpose. Not only was such focus and determination present amongst RCAF personnel, but also amongst our RCN brethren, contractor support staff, and U.S. allies at Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two-Five (HSC-25), air mobility personnel at Andersen Air Force Base, and port authorities at Naval Base Guam.

During the first several days following the hard landing as the ships made their way towards Guam, HMCS Regina had to transfer many parts and equipment from BRONCO’s home ship over to NRU Asterix to begin working on BRONCO.

During seven days in Guam, the mobile repair party worked around the clock. According to Sergeant Scott Rose, air crew with HMCS Regina, “We had three crews working continuously in 8-12 hour shifts. We had a mix of HMCS Regina, Shearwater and Patricia Bay crews working very well together where each crew participated on all aspects of the job.”

On March 6, BRONCO flew again. After hundreds of dedicated maintenance hours, the required maintenance ground runs and test flights breezed by over a two-day period.

As HMCS Regina and NRU Asterix proceed on Operation PROJECTION, and ultimately serve on Operation ARTEMIS in the Arabian Sea, BRONCO will be a force multiplier for the Canadian Armed Forces. In Master Corporal Marc Gagnon’s own words, “With the right support and expertise, anything can be accomplished.”

Bravo Zulu to all members involved in the aircraft repair scheme from the contractors, RCAF, RCN and U.S. services.

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