Helicopters Magazine

Canada to modernize RCAF Griffon fleet

January 31, 2019  By Helicopters Staff

The Government of Canada will leverage Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Ltd. for newly assigned design work to extend the life of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s fleet of 85 CH-146 Griffon helicopters to at least 2031. Canada’s fleet of CH-146 Griffons entered service between 1995 and 1997. The Griffon Limited Life-Extension (GLLE) project will extend the life of the fleet to at least 2031, while the project for the acquisition of the next generation of tactical utility helicopters is developed and implemented.

“Through our defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, we are providing the women and men of our Canadian Armed Forces with the equipment they need to do the important work we ask of them,” said Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence. “A tactical transport helicopter capability is absolutely critical to the success of the full range of military operations. With these upgrades, we are ensuring that our military can continue to rely on this proven helicopter for years to come.”

The first phase of the life extension is what the government describes as the definition phase, during which Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limited – the original equipment manufacturer – will develop design changes to upgrade the helicopter’s avionics systems, engines, and cockpit displays, and integrate sensor systems. Once the definition phase is complete, a separate contract is expected to be awarded for implementation in 2022.

This definition work, valued at up to $90 million (including taxes), will be performed under the existing support contract for the CH-146, which was awarded to Bell Helicopter Textron Canada Limited in 2011. The overall scope of the Griffon Limited Life Extension project is estimated to be valued at approximately $800 million (taxes included).

The Griffon, described as Canada’s multi-purpose utility helicopter, is a critical to Canadian Armed Forces operations at home and abroad. The helicopter fills a number of functions, including tactical troop transport, reconnaissance, escort and surveillance, casualty evacuation, disaster relief, special operations aviation support, and search and rescue.


CH-146 Griffons are currently deployed on Operation PRESENCE in Mali, providing an armed escort for the CH-147 Chinooks during medical evacuations and transport of troops and supplies. Griffons are also deployed on Operation IMPACT in Iraq, carrying Canadian troops, equipment, and supplies in support of the CAF’s training mission.

Illustrating the versatility of the aircraft, CH-146 Griffons provided close fire support and tactical transport during the CAF’s engagement in Afghanistan, reducing exposure of CAF personnel to ground threats such as ambushes, land mines, and improvised explosive devices. The CH-146 is based on the commercially available Bell 412 helicopter, and was developed with unique specifications for the Canadian Armed Forces.

“Extending the life of the CH-146 Griffon fleet will ensure the longevity of the RCAF’s tactical helicopter capability,” said Lieutenant-General A.L. Meinzinger, Commander of the RCAF. “These helicopters have performed extremely well over the years and with these new upgrades, they will continue to be a valuable asset that will allow our personnel to carry out missions and operations successfully well into the future.”

The CH-146 can carry up to 15 people (two pilots, a flight engineer, and 12 passengers), has a maximum gross weight of nearly 5,400 kilograms, and can reach speeds up to 260 kilometres per hour.


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