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Bell CH-146 Griffon

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Bell CH-146 Griffon

For an overview of the whole Huey family of aircraft see Bell Huey
CH-146 Griffon
A CH-146 Griffon from 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron during Exercise Patriot 2006.
Role Utility helicopter
National origin United States / Canada
Manufacturer Bell Helicopter
First flight 1992
Introduction 1995
Status Active service
Primary user Canadian Forces
Produced 1992–1997
Number built 100
Developed from Bell 412

The Bell CH-146 Griffon is the Canadian military variant of the Bell 412EP also designated by Bell as the 412CF, a multi-use utility helicopter. The CH-146 is used in a wide variety of roles, including aerial firepower, reconnaissance, search and rescue and aero-mobility tasks.[1]


  • Design and development 1
  • Operational history 2
    • Canada 2.1
    • Haiti and Balkans 2.2
    • Afghanistan 2.3
    • Suitability for role 2.4
    • Future 2.5
  • Operators 3
  • Accidents and incidents 4
  • Specifications (CH-146) 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Design and development

The CH-146 is the Canadian military designation for the Bell 412CF, a modified Bell 412, ordered by Canada in 1992.[2] The CH-146 was built at Mirabel, Quebec, at the Bell Canadian plant. They were 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.[1]

CH-146 Griffon in SAR markings

The Griffon can be equipped with various specialized bolt-on mission kits, which can enhance the performance of the Griffon, from increasing range, improving protection against enemy fire, etc.[1]

While the CH-146 can be equipped with a total of 13 seats in the cargo area in addition to the two in the 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.[1][3]

Minor disassembly permits transport of the Griffon by CC-130 Hercules or CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft for long-distance deployment.[1]

Operational history

The first CH-146 Griffon arrives at 417 Squadron, CFB Cold Lake. It is parked on the flight line with the CH-118s it was to replace.
CH-146 Griffon in Afghanistan armed with a Dillon Aero M134D "Minigun"

The Canadian Forces purchased 100 aircraft[2] and received them in 1995–1997.[3][4] In 2005, nine CH-146s were sold to the Allied Wings consortium to be used as trainers at 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School.[5]


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.[6] 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.[7]

Haiti and Balkans

The CH-146 have been deployed in Haiti. They were deployed during the Operation Standard and Operation Constable between 1996 to 1997.[8][9] They were deployed more recently during the Operation Halo in 2004 and Operation Hestia in 2010.

The Griffon have been deployed in Bosnia and Kosovo during the Operation Kinetic between 1999 to 2000 and Operation Paladum between 1998 to 2004.[10]


In 2007 the Canadian American Strategic Review suggested the Canadian Forces consider deploying Griffins to Afghanistan, because they were comparable to some helicopters deployed by the United States Marine Corps.[11]

On 26 November 2008, the Canadian Forces issued a statement announcing that 8 Griffons would be modified to act as armed escorts for CH-147 Chinook helicopters in Afghanistan.[12][13][14] Equipped with a M134D mini gun, the helicopters are employed in a defensive and support role, including the evacuation of battlefield casualties.[15] The eight CH-146s arrived at Kandahar International Airport on 20 December 2008.[16]

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."[17][18]

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.[17]

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:[19]

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.[19]

An 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." [20]

Retired LGen 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."[19]

Defence Minister Peter MacKay also defended the aircraft:


The CH-146 Griffon is forecast to be retired in 2021. Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Inc. was awarded a C$640 million contract to repair and overhaul the CH-146 fleet until retirement in 2021. It includes options to extend the contract up to 2025 if necessary.[21][22]


U.S. Army National Guard paratroopers from 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group and 116th Air Support Operations Squadron board a CH-146 Griffon.
Tactical Helicopter role
Search and Rescue role
Combat Support Squadrons

Accidents and incidents

  • On December 1996, airframe #146422 operated by 444 Sqn crashed at night in the waters of Northern Quebec during a search and rescue mission. All aircrew survived but all sustained severe injuries from smoke inhalation to frostbite that needed amputation and various fractures. The aircraft was lost at sea and the crew was found 72 hours after the incident on land suffering from hypothermia. Cause of the crash was pilot error.
  • 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.[34]
  • On 6 July 2009, #146434 crashed about 80 kilometres northeast of Kandahar city killed 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,[19][35][36] 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.[20]

Specifications (CH-146)

Copilot's position
Closeup of starboard side C6 GPMG

Data from Department of National Defence[1][4]

General characteristics
  • Crew: Three (pilot, co-pilot & 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: 2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-3D turboshaft engine, 900 shp (671 kW) each


  • 7.62 mm C6 GPMG optionally mounted in one or both doors
  • 7.62 mm Dillon Aero M134D "Minigun" optionally mounted in one or both doors[37][38][39]
  • GAU-21 .50 Cal, as part of Interoperable Griffon Reconnaissance, Escort Surveillance
  • System (INGRESS) project.[40][41]
  • Removable armour to protect crew and cabin area occupants from small arms fire and fragmentation.


See also

Related development
Related lists


  1. ^ a b c d e f Department of National Defence (October 2006). "The Canadian Army – Equipment – Griffon Helicopter (CH-146)". Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  2. ^ a b Eden, Paul, ed. "Bell 212/412". Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft. London: Amber Books, 2004. ISBN 1-904687-84-9.
  3. ^ a b Department of National Defence (March 2007). "Canada's Air Force – Aircraft – CH-146 Griffon – Technical Specifications". Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  4. ^ a b Department of National Defence (March 2007). "Canada's Air Force – Aircraft – CH-146 Griffon – Technical Specifications". Retrieved 2008-02-24. 
  5. ^ Air Force Public Affairs / Department of National Defence (December 2007). "17 WING – WINNIPEG : SQUADRONS". Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  6. ^  
  7. ^  
  8. ^  
  9. ^  
  10. ^  
  11. ^ "Senator urges deployment of small choppers to Afghanistan".  
  12. ^ "Canada to send Griffon attack helicopters to Afghanistan". CBC News, 26 November 2008. Retrieved on 26 Nov 2008.
  13. ^ "INGRESS — Interoperable Griffon Reconnaissance Escort Surveillance System: Two Contract Award Press Releases".  
  14. ^ "CH-146 Griffons Heading to Kandahar – DND/CF News Release".  
  15. ^ "Dillon Aero DMG134S MiniGun (Gatling Gun) and Parts Kits — MERX ACAN Notice Helicopter-Mounted Armament System".  
  16. ^  
  17. ^ a b Hobson, Sharon (Summer 2006). "Plain Talk – Who Decides?" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  18. ^ Cook, M. Paul (2005). "Canada Under Attack" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  19. ^ a b c d e  
  20. ^ a b "Afghan crash helicopter 'unsuitable' inquest hears: report". Daily Telegraph. 27 August 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-27. 
  21. ^ "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. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  22. ^ "Canada Awards Maintenance Contract for Bell 412EP Helis". Defense Industry Daily. 17 January 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  23. ^ "World Air Forces 2013" (PDF). Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  24. ^ "No. 400 Squadron". Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  25. ^ "403 Squadron (Helicopter) Operational Training Squadron (Hel OTS)". Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  26. ^ "408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THC)". Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  27. ^ "427 Tactical Helicopter Squadron". Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  28. ^ "430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS)". Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  29. ^ "438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS)". Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  30. ^ "424 (Search and Rescue / Transport) Squadron". Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  31. ^ "417 Combat Support Squadron (CSS)". Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  32. ^ "439 Combat Support Squadron (CSS)". Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  33. ^ "444 Combat Support Squadron". Retrieved 1 November 2014. 
  34. ^ Aircraft Occurrence Summary. Directorate of Flight Safety, Canadian Forces, 20 August 2002.
  35. ^  
  36. ^ Aircraft Occurrence Summary. Directorate of Flight Safety, Canadian Forces
  37. ^ DND/CF News (November 2008). "Canada Increases Air Capabilities in Afghanistan". Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  38. ^ Image of a 7.62mm M134D in Action near Kandahar
  39. ^ Helicopter-Mounted Armament System
  40. ^ Lease of Helicopter Weapons Test Range
  41. ^ CH-146 Griffon armed with GAU-21

External links

  • CF CH-146 page
  • Bell CH-146 Griffon page
  • An Armed CH-146 Griffon for Kandahar? on CASR's site
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