The Griffon CH-146 is actually a variant of the Bell 412 utility helicopter, a modern version of the Huey helicopter, which has twin turbines and a composite four-blade main rotor. The Bell 412 was, itself, a further evolution of the earlier Bell 212 model.
The Bell CH-146 Griffon is a multi-role utility helicopter of the Huey family, used by the Royal Canadian Air Force for tactical troop transport, reconnaissance, escort and surveillance, casualty evacuation, disaster relief, special operations aviation support, and search and rescue missions.
In 1992 the Canadian military ordered 100 Bell 412CFs, later re-designated CH-146 Griffon. The CH-146 was built at Mirabel, Quebec, at the Bell Canadian plant. It was delivered between 1995 and 1997 in one of two configurations, the Combat Support Squadron version for search and rescue missions, and the Utility Tactical Transport Helicopter. Search and Rescue versions are painted in a bright yellow finish while military variants showcase a dark camouflage pattern.
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. In 2005, nine CH-146s were sold to the Allied Wings consortium to be used as trainers at 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School.
The design of the CH-146 basically inherits all the features of its 412 predecessor. The cockpit has two crashworthy energy-absorbing pilot seats with excellent views out of the forward, side, and floor window panes. The collective mounted twist grip throttles, which allow the pilot to manage or adjust the power without releasing the primary flight controls. The pilot accesses his cockpit through the hinged, automobile-style doors.
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Along the fuselage are two large sliding doors on either side, which is the entrance of the passenger cabin, which can be removed as needed allow easy, safe and fast access for troops or patient loading. Above the cabin is the twin-engine installation driving the four-blade main rotor. A drive shaft is shrouded in the tail stem leading to the two-bladed tail rotor sat to the starboard side of the vertical tail fin. The landing gear is a simple landing skid system, low-cost and easy-to-maintain. The helicopter operates with a standard crew of 3, two pilots and an onboard flight engineer. Minor disassembly permits transport of the Griffon by CC-130 Hercules or CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft for long-distance deployment.
The avionics suite includes a three-axis autopilot to reduce crew workload and fatigue and allow the crew to concentrate on successful completion of the mission. Flight Management System is CMC Electronics CMA-2082A. There is also WESCAM 16TD-A Thermal Imaging System stabilized camera system, Crew equipped with Generation III Image Intensification Night Vision.
The helicopter is powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-3D turboshaft engine producing 900 shaft horsepower for each power section. The Bell CH-146 can reachs the maximum speed of 260 km/h, the cruise speeds is 220 km/h and and range out to 656 km respectively. The helicopter’ maximum take-off weight is 5,355 kg.
In terms of armament, the Canadian helicopter can be armed with machine guns for fire support roles. These weapons could be 7.62 mm C6 general purpose machine gun or 7.62 mm Dillon Aero M134D Minigun, they all have the option of mounting on one or both doors.
It can also be fitted with a 12.7mm GAU-21 heavy machine gun as part of Interoperable Griffon Reconnaissance Escort Surveillance System project. Removable armour can be installed to protect crew and cabin area occupants from small arms fire and fragmentation.
The CH-146 Griffon has been deployed in various operations in both Canada and abroad since their introduction in 1995. CH-146s have been deployed in Haiti. They were deployed during Operation Standard and Operation Constable between 1996 and 1997. They were deployed more recently during Operation Halo in 2004 and Operation Hestia in 2010.
Griffons have been deployed in Bosnia and Kosovo during Operation Kinetic between 1999 and 2000 and Operation Paladum between 1998 and 2004. In Afghanistan, Griffons have been used to provide escort and protection for the larger CH-47D Chinook transport helicopters. They are also used for surveillance purposes, checking for possible threats on the ground.
In January 2019, Canada announced plans to modernize and extend the life of the existing 85 CH-146 helicopters to 2031. The overall value of the Griffon Life Extension programme will be about $600 million. The Royal Canadian Air Force’s Griffon fleet has an average age of 21.7 years, according to Flight Fleet Analyzer. While extending the aircraft’s life until at least 2031, Canada says it will start looking for the next generation of tactical utility helicopters.