The Canadian government has awarded Bell Textron Canada a contract to modernise the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF’s) 85-strong fleet of CH-146 Griffon utility helicopters – a move that aims to extend the type’s service life until at least the mid-2030s.
The contract, which is worth nearly CAN$800m, was awarded to Bell Textron Canada – the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the CH-146 (the largest helicopter fleet in the RCAF’s inventory) – on May 30 as part of the Griffon Limited Life Extension (GLLE) programme. As per the terms of the deal, Bell will perform modification work on the first nine CH-146s at its facility in Mirabel, Quebec, before managing a competitive process to subcontract suppliers to conduct upgrade work on the remaining 76 helicopters.
Bell states that it “intends to source a broad base of Canadian industry partners to support the modifications of more than 80% of the [CH-146] fleet, ensuring the skills and capacity to sustain the Griffon remains indigenous to Canada.” The first upgraded helicopter is scheduled to be re-delivered to the RCAF in 2024, with the final example expected to complete the process by 2028.
This latest deal under the GLLE project comes after the Canadian government awarded Bell Textron Canada a CAN$90m contract to design, develop and install a variety of new systems and equipment on three prototype CH-146 airframes in January 2019. The first of these helicopters arrived at Bell’s Mirabel facility in February 2021.
Under this earlier contract, new integrated sensor systems and cockpit displays were installed on each helicopter. A number of the CH-146’s older avionics systems – such as communications radios and cryptographic equipment; cockpit voice and flight recorders; navigation systems; control display units and automatic flight control systems were replaced. The Griffon’s older Pratt & Whitney PT6T-3D turboshaft engine was also replaced by the newer PT6T-9 model. The upgrade of flight simulators and other training devices, along with the provision of equipment and spare parts, will also be included in the GLLE programme.
With 100 examples delivered to the RCAF between 1994 and 1998, the CH-146 Griffon – a militarised variant of the Bell 412EP utility helicopter – carries out a variety of different roles on behalf of the Canadian Armed Forces, including tactical troop transport; reconnaissance; escort and surveillance; casualty evacuation; search and rescue; humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) and special operations aviation support tasks.