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For an overview of the whole Huey family of aircraft see Bell Huey
CH-146 Griffon
Role Multipurpose utility helicopter
National origin United States / Canada
Manufacturer Bell Helicopter
Introduced 1995
Status Active service
Primary user Canadian Forces
Number built 100
Developed from Bell 412

The Bell CH-146 Griffon is the Canadian military variant of the Bell 412EP, 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

U.S. Army National Guard paratroopers from 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group and 116th Air Support Operations Squadron board a CH-146 Griffon.
CH-146 Griffon in SAR markings
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.

Based on the Bell 412EP, the Griffon is designated 412CF. Canada ordered 100 of the model 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]

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, accommodating three crew and ten passengers, 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 C-17 aircraft for long-distance deployment.[1]

Operational history

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]

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.[6] Equipped with a M134D mini gun, the helicopters are employed in a defensive and support role, including the evacuation of battlefield casualties. The six CH-146s arrived at Kandahar International Airport on 20 December 2008.[7]


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."[8][9]

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.[8]

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:[10]

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.[10]

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."[10]

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.[10]


The Canadian Forces had 85 aircraft in service in 2008. The aircraft are employed at:[3][4]

Tactical Helicopter role
Search and Rescue role
Combat Support Squadrons

Accidents and incidents

  • On 18 July 2002, a CH-146 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.[11]
  • On 6 July 2009, a CH-146 crashed about 80 kilometres northeast of Kandahar city killed two Canadian soldiers, along with a British soldier from the Royal Engineers. Three other Canadians were hurt. The crash was an accident due to the pilot's loss of visual reference in recirculating dust and not due to enemy action.[10][12][13]

Specifications (CH-146)

Pilot's position
Co-pilot's position
CH-146 Griffon of 438 ETAH armed with a starboard M-134D
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: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[14][15][16]
  • Removable armour to protect crew and cabin area occupants from small arms fire and shrapnel


  • WESCAM 16TD-A Thermal Imaging System (TIS) stabilized camera system
  • Crew equipped with Generation III Image Intensification (II) Night Vision

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)". Retrieved 2008-02-24.  
  2. ^ a b Eden, Paul, ed. "Bell 212/412". Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft. London: Amber Books, 2004. ISBN 1904687849.
  3. ^ a b c Department of National Defence (Match 2007). "Canada's Air Force - Aircraft - CH-146 Griffon - Technical Specifications". Retrieved 2008-02-24.  
  4. ^ a b c Department of National Defence (Match 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. ^ "Canada to send Griffon attack helicopters to Afghanistan". CBC News, 26 November 2008. Retrieved on 26 Nov 2008.
  7. ^ Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (December 2008). "Canadian-made Griffon helicopters arrive in Kandahar". Retrieved 2008-12-20.  
  8. ^ a b Hobson, Sharon (Summer 2006). "Plain Talk – Who Decides?". Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  9. ^ Cook, M. Paul (2005). "Canada Under Attack". Retrieved 2009-07-28.  
  10. ^ a b c d e Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (July 2009). "The CH-146 Griffon helicopter". Retrieved 2009-07-08.  
  11. ^ Aircraft Occurrence Summary. Directorate of Flight Safety, Canada's Air Force, 20 August 2002.
  12. ^ Comrades honour Cpl. Michaud at Kandahar Airfield
  13. ^ Associated Press (July 2009). "Afghan dust could have contributed to chopper crash: report". Retrieved 2009-07-08.  
  14. ^ DND/CF News (November 2008). "Canada Increases Air Capabilities in Afghanistan". Retrieved 2009-03-13.  
  15. ^ Image of a 7.62mm M134D in Action near Kandahar
  16. ^ Helicopter-Mounted Armament System

External links


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