Bell CH-146 Griffon

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 In service
Primary user Canadian Forces
Produced 1992–97
Number built 100
Developed from Bell 412

The Bell CH-146 Griffon is a multi-use 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.[1]

It has a crew of three, can carry up to 10 troops and has a cruising speed of 220–260 km/h (120–140 kn; 140–160 mph).[2]

Design and development

The CH-146 is the Canadian military designation for the Bell 412CF, a modified Bell 412, ordered by Canada in 1992.[3] 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][4]

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[3] and received them in 1995–1997.[2][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] 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.[8]

Haiti and Balkans

The CH-146 have been deployed in Haiti. They were deployed during the Operation Standard and Operation Constable between 1996 and 1997.[9][10] 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 and 2000 and Operation Paladum between 1998 and 2004.[11]


In 2007, the Canadian American Strategic Review suggested the Canadian Forces consider deploying Griffons to Afghanistan, because they were comparable to some helicopters deployed by the United States Marine Corps.[12]

On 26 November 2008, the Canadian Forces announced by a statement that 8 Griffons would be modified to act as armed escorts for CH-147 Chinook helicopters in Afghanistan.[13][14][15] Equipped with a M134D mini gun, the helicopters were employed in a defensive and support role, including the evacuation of battlefield casualties.[16] The eight CH-146s arrived at Kandahar International Airport on 20 December 2008.[17]

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."[18][19]

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.[18]

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:[20]

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.[20]

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."[21]

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."[20]

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.[20]


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.[22][23]


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

Specifications (CH-146)

Copilot's position
Closeup of starboard side C6 GPMG

Data from Department of National Defence[1][2]

General characteristics




See also

Related development

Related lists


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "The Canadian Army – Equipment – Griffon Helicopter (CH-146)". Department of National Defence. October 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
  2. 1 2 3 "Canada's Air Force – Aircraft – CH-146 Griffon – Technical Specifications". Department of National Defence. March 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
  3. 1 2 Eden, Paul, ed. "Bell 212/412". Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircraft. London: Amber Books, 2004. ISBN 1-904687-84-9.
  4. 1 2 "Canada's Air Force – Aircraft – CH-146 Griffon – Technical Specifications". Department of National Defence. March 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
  5. "17 WING – WINNIPEG : SQUADRONS". Air Force Public Affairs / Department of National Defence. December 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-20.
  6. "CH-146 Griffon". DND. 2010. Retrieved 2010. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. DND (2010). "Operation Podium Air Component delivers". Retrieved 2010. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  8. "Operation LENTUS".
  9. "Operation STANDARD". DND. 2010. Retrieved 2008-11-28.
  10. "Operation CONSTABLE". DND. 2010. Retrieved 2008-11-28.
  11. "Operation KINETIC". DND. 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
  12. "Senator urges deployment of small choppers to Afghanistan". Canwest News Service. 2007-08-30. Retrieved 2013-09-17. The Canadian American Strategic Review, a defence-oriented Internet site operated out of Simon Fraser University, points out that until July 2006 the U.S. Marines flew convoy escort duties from Kandahar airfield in Huey helicopters. Those choppers are similar to the Griffons but less powerful, the site adds. It also questioned why the marines can operate such choppers when the Canadian Forces considers the local conditions in Kandahar too extreme for the Griffons.
  13. "Canada to send Griffon attack helicopters to Afghanistan". CBC News, 26 November 2008. Retrieved on 26 Nov 2008.
  14. "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.
  15. "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.
  16. "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.
  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.
  18. 1 2 Hobson, Sharon (Summer 2006). "Plain Talk – Who Decides?" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  19. Cook, M. Paul (2005). "Canada Under Attack" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  20. 1 2 3 4 5 "The CH-146 Griffon helicopter". CBC News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
  21. 1 2 "Afghan crash helicopter 'unsuitable' inquest hears: report". Daily Telegraph. 27 August 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
  22. "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.
  23. "Canada Awards Maintenance Contract for Bell 412EP Helis". Defense Industry Daily. 17 January 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2012.
  24. "World Air Forces 2013" (PDF). Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  25. "No. 400 Squadron". Archived from the original on 6 August 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  26. "403 Squadron (Helicopter) Operational Training Squadron (Hel OTS)". Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  27. "408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THC)". Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  28. "427 Tactical Helicopter Squadron". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  29. "430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS)". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  30. "438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS)". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  31. "424 (Search and Rescue / Transport) Squadron". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  32. "417 Combat Support Squadron (CSS)". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  33. "439 Combat Support Squadron (CSS)". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  34. "444 Combat Support Squadron". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  35. Aircraft Occurrence Summary. Directorate of Flight Safety, Canadian Forces, 20 August 2002.
  36. Associated Press (July 2009). "Afghan dust could have contributed to chopper crash: report". CBC News. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
  37. Aircraft Occurrence Summary. Directorate of Flight Safety, Canadian Forces
  39. DND/CF News (November 2008). "Canada Increases Air Capabilities in Afghanistan". Retrieved 2009-03-13.
  40. Image of a 7.62mm M134D in Action near Kandahar
  41. Helicopter-Mounted Armament System Archived September 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  42. Lease of Helicopter Weapons Test Range
  43. CH-146 Griffon armed with GAU-21

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