Aerial Warfare

Bell Announces First Flight of Royal Canadian Air Force’s CH-146C MK II Griffon Helicopter

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Bell Announces First Flight of Royal Canadian Air Force’s CH-146C MK II Griffon Helicopter

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Bell Announces First Flight of Royal Canadian Air Force’s CH-146C MK II Griffon Helicopter
Bell Announces First Flight of Royal Canadian Air Force’s CH-146C MK II Griffon Helicopter

Bell Textron Canada Limited a Textron Inc. company, announced the successful first flight of one of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s modernized CH-146 Griffon helicopters, a variant of the Bell 412EP, under the Griffon Limited Life Extension (GLLE) project. Under GLLE, Bell will provide aircraft modifications to a series of the fleet’s aeronautical components, including its avionics systems, cockpit displays, engines, and sensor systems. This news comes nearly five months after Bell was awarded the In-Service Support (ISS) contract that is positioned to sustain the Force’s fleet through 2039. To commemorate this historic flight milestone, Bell hosted an event at Bell’s Commercial Centre of Excellence for attendees to witness the first flight of the upgraded platform. Founded in 1986 and based in Mirabel, Quebec, Bell Textron Canada Ltd. (BTCL) is focused on delivering an exceptional customer experience and superior service and support for customers around the globe. Represented by more than 1,500 employees and 550 suppliers based from coast to coast to coast, BTCL has built and delivered nearly 6,000 aircraft, with 1,000 provided to Canadian operators.

“As Canada’s only helicopter manufacturer in-country, Bell is a proud partner of the Canadian Armed Forces. Our facility’s local presence provides us with the ability to work closely with the Canadian government, as well as other local customers to address their aircraft needs. The GLLE program will help ensure that the Royal Canadian Air Force is equipped with cutting-edge defense technologies for years to come”, said Michael Nault, General Manager, Bell Textron Canada.

“The Bell 412 remains a venerable aircraft of choice for militaries across the world, with the Royal Canadian Air Force operating the largest and best equipped militarized fleet of 412s. Bell is honored to continue our relationship with the Royal Canadian Air Force as they expand their mission capabilities with next generation technologies,” said Danny Maldonado, chief commercial officer, Bell.

The first upgraded CH-146 Griffon completed under the GLLE project is expected to be delivered to the Canadian government in 2026 pending military certification.
The first upgraded CH-146 Griffon completed under the GLLE project is expected to be delivered to the Canadian government in 2026 pending military certification. (Photo by Bell)

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 Bell 412 family is popular with military operators globally, and was also produced under license in Italy by Augusta; the 412 and its variants was further modernization of the Bell 212. The CH-146 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). The Griffon can be equipped with various specialized bolt-on mission kits which can enhance its performance, 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. Minor disassembly permits transport of the Griffon by CC-130 Hercules or CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft for long-distance deployment.

In January 2019, Canada announced plans to modernize and extend the life of the existing 85 CH-146s to 2031. In May 2022, the contract was signed. The contract with Bell Canada will allow the type to be in service until the 2030s. The maintenance work is done in Canada and sustains over 1100 jobs there. In April 2024, the Government of Canada announced plans to spend C$18.4 billion over 20 years to acquire additional helicopters that are more “modern, mobile, and effective” to increase the speed and airlift capacity in responding to natural disasters, emergencies, and assertions of sovereignty. It is not clear if implication is to supplement or replace the CH-146 fleet. The CH-146 is one of several assets in Canada’s vertical lift portfolio which, by the 2020s, includes the CH-149 Cormorant (Medium-lift Search and Rescue (EH101)), CH-147 Chinook (twin-rotor heavy-lift), CH-148 Cyclone (maritime medium lift transport and ASW (S-92)), among others. In 2024, the Canadian Government announced a service contract to sustain the CH-146 Griffon fleet.

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