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Ottawa to send attack helicopters to Afghanistan

November 26, 2008  By The Canadian Press

Nov. 26, 2008 - Ottawa, ON - Canada's own heavily armed helicopters will ride shotgun
on new CH-47 Chinook transport choppers in Afghanistan, Defence
Minister Peter MacKay said Wednesday.

The eight specially modified CH-146 Griffon utility helicopters,
which have been given weapons and extra sensors, will provide escort
and protection, the minister told the House of Commons in response
to a question from a Conservative MP.

The move represents an about-face for the Defence Department,
which had asked NATO allies to fill that role.

Both the U.S. Army and Dutch forces have flown armed escort
helicopters — mostly AH-46 Apaches — out of Kandahar Airfield since

After the $282 million purchase of Chinooks was announced in
August, a senior military planner said that allies would be asked to
protect them.


Speculation that the Griffons would be deployed overseas has
swirled in defence circles for months.

Late in the spring, the federal government awarded a $25.9
million contract to L-3 Wescam Inc., of Burlington, Ont., to install
an electro-optical and infrared sensor system on as many as 19

The air force has long wanted to send the Griffons into battle.
Its initial proposal was made in December 2005 as the first battle
group was preparing to deploy to Kandahar.

The proposal was rejected by former chief of defence staff Gen.
Rick Hillier, who noted that Griffons don't perform well in the heat
and high altitudes of Afghanistan.

The air force ran trials with armed Griffons, which are
essentially civilian Bell 412s modified for military use.

Big transport helicopters, such as Chinooks, are vulnerable to
attack by ground fire and rocket-propelled grenades when operating
in war zones and usually travel with their smaller, armed cousins
along for protection.


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