Aerial Warfare

Bell Awarded Royal Canadian Air Force Contract to Sustain CH-146 Griffon Helicopter Fleet

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Bell Awarded Royal Canadian Air Force Contract to Sustain CH-146 Griffon Helicopter Fleet

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Bell Awarded Royal Canadian Air Force Contract to Sustain CH-146 Griffon Helicopter Fleet
Bell Awarded Royal Canadian Air Force Contract to Sustain CH-146 Griffon Helicopter Fleet

Bell Textron Canada Limited (BTCL) has been awarded a CA$2.28 billion (US$1.68 billion) helicopter maintenance contract by the Canadian government. The contract, announced on January 17, covers the crucial maintenance and repair of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) fleet of CH-146 Griffons, a versatile multi-role utility helicopter variant of the Bell 412EP. The maintenance activities under this contract will be conducted at facilities spanning six provinces in Canada, reinforcing the nation’s commitment to sustaining and enhancing its aerial capabilities. The comprehensive agreement includes the procurement of spare parts, heavy maintenance services, engineering, technical and design change services, and component repair and overhaul. This strategic move ensures the operational readiness of the Griffon fleet until at least the mid-2030s, supporting the RCAF in its tactical transport and search and rescue (SAR) missions.

This contract follows a previous CA$800 million agreement awarded to Bell in June 2022 for the life-extending overhaul of the same fleet. The cumulative investment underlines Canada’s dedication to maintaining a robust and effective airborne defense capability. The CH-146 Griffon serves a multitude of roles, including aerial firepower, reconnaissance, search and rescue, and aero-mobility tasks. With a crew of three, the helicopter can carry up to ten troops, boasting a cruising speed of 220–260 km/h. The Griffon fleet was initially set for retirement in 2021. However, in line with Canada’s commitment to modernize and extend the life of existing helicopters, a C$640 million contract was awarded to Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Inc. to overhaul and repair the CH-146 fleet until 2021, with options for extension up to 2025. The subsequent Griffon Limited Life Extension (GLLE) project, launched in January 2019, aims to keep the fleet operational until 2031.

Royal Canadian Air Force  Bell CH-146 Griffon Utility Helicopter
Royal Canadian Air Force Bell CH-146 Griffon Utility Helicopter. (Photo by RCAF)

The GLLE project, overseen by project director LCol Richard Morris, focuses on ensuring the current level of capability in the CH-146 platform. It involves integrating the existing WESCAM MX-15 EO/IR system into the cockpit more comprehensively while maintaining the current sensor. This upgrade will enhance the fleet’s sustainability and interoperability with the wider Canadian Armed Forces and allied forces. The first upgraded CH-146 is expected to be unveiled later this year, with the entire upgrade program projected to be completed by 2028. This initiative not only extends the operational life of the Griffon fleet but also aligns with Canada’s commitment to technological advancements and the modernization of its defense capabilities. The upgraded CH-146 will play a pivotal role in supporting the diverse operational needs of the Canadian Armed Forces, reinforcing the nation’s defense posture well into the next decade.

The Bell CH-146 Griffon is a multi-role utility helicopter designed by Bell Helicopter Textron as a variant of the Bell 412EP for the Canadian Armed Forces. 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. Minor disassembly permits transport of the Griffon by CC-130 Hercules or CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft for long-distance deployment. 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). 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.

Royal Canadian Air Force  Bell CH-146 Griffon Utility Helicopter
Royal Canadian Air Force Bell CH-146 Griffon Utility Helicopter. (Photo by RCAF)

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