Work to start on first phase of CH-146 Griffon upgrade and life extension

In Cold Lake, the helicopters are used for search and rescue in the event of a fighter jet crash.

A Search And Rescue CH-146 Griffon hovers as the flight engineer on board prepares to hoist down a stretcher during training. Master Cpl. Shilo Adamson/Canadian Forces

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Bell Helicopter Textron Canada will start the process to upgrade and extend the operating life of the Canadian Forces Griffon helicopter fleet with initial work needed to determine how to proceed with technology improvements.

The firm, based in Mirabel, Que., will be conducting design work needed to extend the life of fleet of 85 CH-146 Griffon helicopters to at least 2031.

The definition work, valued at up to $90 million, will be performed under the existing support contract for the CH-146, which was awarded to the firm in 2011, according to the Department of National Defence. The company, which is the original manufacturer of the helicopter, will develop design changes to upgrade the aircraft’s avionics systems, engines, and cockpit displays, as well as to integrate sensor systems.

The Griffon Limited Life Extension project is estimated to be valued at approximately $800 million, the DND noted.

Once the definition phase is complete, a separate contract is expected to be awarded in 2022 for implementation of the upgrades.

Canada’s fleet of CH-146 Griffons, some of which are flown out of Cold Lake as part of the 417 Combat Support Squadron, entered service between 1995 and 1997. The helicopters are used for a variety of functions, including special forces support, tactical troop transport, reconnaissance, escort and surveillance, casualty evacuation, disaster relief, and search and rescue.

In Cold Lake, the helicopters are used for search and rescue in the event of a fighter jet crash. The helicopters, from 4 Wing 417 Squadron, may also be called in to assist with other searches in other parts of Canada.

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, according to the Canadian Forces.

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