Bell CH-146 Griffon
|A CH-146 Griffon from 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron|
|National origin||United States / Canada|
|Primary user||Royal Canadian Air Force|
|Developed from||Bell 412|
The Bell CH-146 Griffon is a multi-role utility helicopter of the Huey family, designed by Bell Helicopter Textron as a variant for the Canadian Armed Forces of the Bell 412EP. The CH-146 is used in a wide variety of roles, including aerial firepower, reconnaissance, search and rescue and aero-mobility tasks.
It has a crew of three, can carry up to ten troops and has a cruising speed of 220–260 km/h (120–140 kn; 140–160 mph).
Design and development
The CH-146 is the Canadian military designation for the Bell 412CF, a modified Bell 412, ordered by Canada in 1992. The CH-146 was built at Mirabel, Quebec, at the Bell Canadian plant. It was delivered between 1995 and 1997 in one of two configurations, the Combat Support Squadron (CSS) version for search and rescue missions, and the Utility Tactical Transport Helicopter (UTTH), which carries a crew of three and an eight-man section.
The Griffon can be equipped with various specialized bolt-on mission kits which can enhance the performance of the Griffon, from increasing range to improving protection against enemy fire, etc.
While the CH-146 can be equipped with a total of 13 seats in the cargo area in addition to the two in front for the aircrew, weight restrictions usually result in a normal combat load of eight equipped troops or fewer depending on armament and fuel carried. The aircraft can also be configured for up to six stretchers.
Maintenance and upgrades
The CH-146 Griffon is forecast to be retired in 2021. Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Inc. was awarded a C$640 million contract to overhaul and repair the CH-146 fleet until retirement in 2021. The contact includes options to extend the contract up to 2025 if necessary.
In January 2019, Canada announced plans to modernize and extend the life of the existing 85 CH-146 helicopters to 2031.
The Canadian Forces purchased 100 aircraft and received them in 1995–1997. In 2005, nine CH-146s were sold to the Allied Wings consortium to be used as trainers at 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School.
The CH-146 Griffon have been deployed in various operations in Canada since their introduction in 1995. They have been deployed during the Operation Saguenay in 1996 and Operation Assistance in 1997. The CH-146 have also played a major role during the great ice storm of 1998. They were deployed during the 28th G8 summit and 36th G8 summit. They were also deployed to secure the 2010 Winter Olympics during the Operation Podium. In May 2016, four Griffons were deployed as part of Operation LENTUS 16-01, to provide emergency services for victims of the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.
Haiti and Balkans
CH-146s have been deployed in Haiti. They were deployed during Operation Standard and Operation Constable between 1996 and 1997. They were deployed more recently during Operation Halo in 2004 and Operation Hestia in 2010.
In 2007, the Canadian American Strategic Review suggested that the Canadian Forces consider deploying Griffons to Afghanistan, because they were comparable to the UH-1 Hueys deployed by the United States Marine Corps.
On 26 November 2008, the Canadian Forces announced in a statement that eight Griffons would be modified to act as armed escorts for CH-147 Chinook helicopters in Afghanistan. Equipped with a M134D Minigun, the helicopters were employed in a defensive and support role, including the evacuation of battlefield casualties. The eight CH-146s arrived at Kandahar International Airport on 20 December 2008.
Suitability for role
The CH-146 was purchased by the CF to replace four existing helicopters, the CH-136 Kiowa in the observation role, the CH-135 Twin Huey in the army tactical role, the CH-118 Iroquois in the base rescue role and the heavy lift CH-147 Chinook. From the time of its purchase defence analysts have been critical of the aircraft pointing to its procurement as politically motivated and that the aircraft cannot adequately fill any of its intended roles. It has been termed "a civilian designed and built aircraft, with only a coat of green paint."
Writing in 2006 defence analyst Sharon Hobson said:
The Griffon helicopter has become almost a laughing stock. It is underpowered for the transport role the army needs it to play, and it’s too big for a reconnaissance role. At a time when the Canadian Forces are thirsting for equipment, it’s telling that about 20 of the Griffons have been parked.
The CH-146 was ruled out for the Afghan mission by General Rick Hillier when he was Chief of Defence Staff in 2008 due to being underpowered. It has also been criticised for being underpowered by Martin Shadwick, a defence analyst and professor at York University. Shadwick stated in July 2009:
Its engines are fine for most domestic requirements in Canada and a more moderate temperature, but [the Griffon] doesn't really have the horsepower to reach its full potential in a place like Afghanistan.
At the inquest into the death of Capt Ben Babington-Browne (killed on 6 July 2009 in the crash of aircraft #146434), Lt Cdr William Robley of the UK Defence Helicopter Flying School confirmed that operating the aircraft at that altitude, temperature and weight meant that it was not the correct helicopter for that mission. When asked by the coroner: "Had you been there, would it have been obvious to you of the risks attached to using the Griffon helicopter in these conditions?" Lt Cdr Robley replied: "Yes." When asked: "Would you expect a competent pilot to have understood that this was not the correct helicopter for the mission?", Lt Cdr Robley replied: "It depended on the pilot's training; unless they have been trained, they are on a voyage of discovery."
Retired Lieutenant General Lou Cuppens defended the aircraft's performance:
When the discussions took place about Afghanistan it was very quickly determined that when you do the weather analysis, that the aircraft could not carry the same combat load of troops that it could in Canada and land in a temperate climate. But all you do then is, you use more of them to do the same mission. Looking at operations that we've done elsewhere in the Middle East, with similar aircraft, they all have limitations of some sort and you work with the limitations."
Defence Minister Peter MacKay also defended the aircraft:
I believe the Griffon is a superior helicopter, well-maintained, it's a utility helicopter that serves our interests both in Afghanistan and for purposes here in Canada.
- Tactical Helicopter role
- 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron
- 403 Helicopter Operational Training Squadron
- 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron
- 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron
- 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron
- 438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron
- Search and Rescue role
- Combat Support Squadrons
Accidents and incidents
- On 18 July 2002, #146420 operated by 444 Sqn crashed north of CFB Goose Bay while returning from a search and rescue mission that had been called off. Both pilots were killed on impact and the SAR Technician and Flight Engineer were both seriously injured. The cause of the crash was the loss of the aircraft tail rotor after a tail rotor blade failed from fatigue.
- On 6 July 2009, #146434 crashed about 80 kilometres (50 mi) northeast of Kandahar city killing two Canadian soldiers, along with a captain from the British Royal Engineers. Three other Canadians were hurt. The crash was reportedly an accident due to the pilot's loss of visual reference in recirculating dust and not due to enemy action, but an inquest into the death of Capt Ben Babington-Browne was told that the helicopter was unsuitable for hot and high operations in Afghanistan. In April 2016, it was revealed that a military police investigation of senior air force officers was underway for negligence for not providing adequate training for aircrew in dealing with takeoffs in dusty conditions and also for raising the operational gross weight of the aircraft above that safe for operation.
- Crew: three (pilot, co-pilot, and flight engineer)
- Capacity: 10 troops or 6 stretchers (some sources state maximum 8 passengers)
- Length: 17.1 m (56 ft 1 in)
- Rotor diameter: 14 m (45 ft 11 in)
- Height: 4.6 m (15 ft 1 in)
- Max. takeoff weight: 5,355 kg (11,900 lb)
- Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-3D turboshaft engine, 1,250 shp (932 kW), 900 shp (671 kW) for each power section
- Maximum speed: 260 km/h (139 knots, 160 mph)
- Cruise speed: 220 km/h (118 knots, 136 mph)
- Range: 656 km (354 nm, 405 mi)
- 7.62 mm C6 general purpose machine gun (GPMG) optionally mounted in one or both doors
- 7.62 mm Dillon Aero M134D "Minigun" optionally mounted in one or both doors
- .50 Cal (12.7 mm) GAU-21, as part of Interoperable Griffon Reconnaissance Escort Surveillance System (INGRESS) project.
- Removable armour to protect crew and cabin area occupants from small arms fire and fragmentation.
- WESCAM 16TD-A Thermal Imaging System (TIS) stabilized camera system
- Crew equipped with Generation III Image Intensification (II) Night Vision
- CMC Electronics CMA-2082A Flight Management System
- "The Canadian Army – Equipment – Griffon Helicopter (CH-146)". Department of National Defence. October 2006. Archived from the original on 2011-06-10. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- "Canada's Air Force – Aircraft – CH-146 Griffon – Technical Specifications". Department of National Defence. March 2007. Archived from the original on 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- Eden, Paul, ed. "Bell 212/412". Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft. London: Amber Books, 2004. ISBN 1-904687-84-9.
- "Canada's Air Force – Aircraft – CH-146 Griffon – Technical Specifications". Department of National Defence. March 2007. Archived from the original on 2010-12-05. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
- "AIAC congratulates Bell Helicopter Textron on Government of Canada contract that supports Canadian forces and maintains jobs" (PDF). Aerospace Industries Association of Canada. 14 January 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- "Canada Awards Maintenance Contract for Bell 412EP Helis". Defense Industry Daily. 17 January 2011. Archived from the original on 14 September 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
- Reim, Garrett. "Canada to extend life of Bell CH-146 Griffon helicopters to 2031" Archived 2019-01-28 at the Wayback Machine. Flight Global, 28 January 2019.
- "17 WING – WINNIPEG : SQUADRONS". Air Force Public Affairs / Department of National Defence. December 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-02-03. Retrieved 2008-08-20.
- "CH-146 Griffon". DND. 2010. Archived from the original on 5 December 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- DND (2010). "Operation Podium Air Component delivers". Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- "Operation LENTUS". Archived from the original on 2017-05-08. Retrieved 2016-05-06.
- "Operation STANDARD". DND. 2010. Archived from the original on 2011-03-23. Retrieved 2008-11-28.
- "Operation CONSTABLE". DND. 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-10-22. Retrieved 2008-11-28.
- "Operation KINETIC". DND. 2010. Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- "Senator urges deployment of small choppers to Afghanistan". Canwest News Service. 2007-08-30. Archived from the original on 2013-09-18. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
The Canadian American Strategic Review, a defence-oriented Internet site operated out of Simon Fraser University, pointed out that until July 2006 the U.S. Marines flew convoy escort duties from Kandahar airfield in Huey helicopters. Those helicopters are similar to the Griffons but less powerful, the site adds. It also questioned why the marines can operate such helicopters when the Canadian Forces consider the local conditions in Kandahar too extreme for the Griffons.
- "Canada to send Griffon attack helicopters to Afghanistan" Archived 2009-02-13 at the Wayback Machine. CBC News, 26 November 2008. Retrieved on 26 Nov 2008.
- "INGRESS — Interoperable Griffon Reconnaissance Escort Surveillance System: Two Contract Award Press Releases". Canadian American Strategic Review. July 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-09-06. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
MND Peter MacKay announced that eight INGRESS Griffons will go to Kandahar in early 2009.
- "CH-146 Griffons Heading to Kandahar – DND/CF News Release". Canadian American Strategic Review. 2008-12-26. Archived from the original on 2008-12-25. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
The Department of National Defence has issued a brief statement announcing that the first two (at least) CF CH-146 Griffon utility helicopters meant for Afghanistan will soon be on the way to Kandahar.
- "Dillon Aero DMG134S MiniGun (Gatling Gun) and Parts Kits — MERX ACAN Notice Helicopter-Mounted Armament System". Canadian American Strategic Review. February 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-09-06. Retrieved 2013-09-17.
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (December 2008). "Canadian-made Griffon helicopters arrive in Kandahar". CBC News. Archived from the original on 21 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
- Hobson, Sharon (Summer 2006). "Plain Talk – Who Decides?" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
- Cook, M. Paul (2005). "Canada Under Attack" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2010-11-06. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
- "The CH-146 Griffon helicopter". CBC News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. July 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-07-10. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- "Afghan crash helicopter 'unsuitable' inquest hears: report". Daily Telegraph. 27 August 2014. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
- "World Air Forces 2013" (PDF). Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 December 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
- "No. 400 Squadron". canadianwings.com. Archived from the original on 6 August 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
- "403 Squadron (Helicopter) Operational Training Squadron (Hel OTS)". rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
- "408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THC)". rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
- "427 Tactical Helicopter Squadron". rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 2014-09-11. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- "430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS)". rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 2013-11-11. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- "438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS)". rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 2013-09-06. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- "424 (Search and Rescue / Transport) Squadron". rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 2014-11-02. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- "417 Combat Support Squadron (CSS)". rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 2014-11-02. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- "439 Combat Support Squadron (CSS)". rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 2014-11-02. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- "444 Combat Support Squadron". rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 2014-11-02. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- Aircraft Occurrence Summary. Directorate of Flight Safety, Canadian Forces, 20 August 2002.
- Associated Press (July 2009). "Afghan dust could have contributed to chopper crash: report". CBC News. Archived from the original on 2009-07-10. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- Aircraft Occurrence Summary. Directorate of Flight Safety, Canadian Forces
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-04-12. Retrieved 2016-04-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- DND/CF News (November 2008). "Canada Increases Air Capabilities in Afghanistan". Archived from the original on 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2009-03-13.
- Image of a 7.62mm M134D in Action near Kandahar[permanent dead link]
- Helicopter-Mounted Armament System Archived September 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- "Lease of Helicopter Weapons Test Range". Archived from the original on 2015-04-03. Retrieved 2011-06-24.
- CH-146 Griffon armed with GAU-21[permanent dead link]
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