Helicopter manufacturer Bell has secured a major defence contract with the Canadian government for maintenance and repair support of Ottawa’s fleet of CH-146 Griffon utility helicopters.

The Canadian government announced the C$2.28 billion ($1.68 billion) contract on 17 January.

Canada operates 82 CH-146s, originally built by Bell as a derivative of the company’s 412EP civil helicopter. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) uses the type as a tactical transport and to support search and rescue.

“The CH-146 Griffon provides crucial tactical aviation, special operations aviation and search and rescue capabilities to the Royal Canadian Air Force, at home and abroad,” says Canadian defence minister Bill Blair.

Canada CH-146

Source: Canadian Armed Forces

Canada operates a fleet of 82 Bell CH-146 Griffon utility helicopters, a derivative of the Bell 412EP

The defence ministry says the latest contract with Bell will keep the Griffon fleet operational until at least the mid-2030s.

For Bell, the maintenance contract comes on top of a separate $591 million deal awarded in 2022 to extend the service life of the RCAF Griffon fleet.

That programme includes upgraded cockpit displays, more capable engines and modernised avionics. The upgraded CH-146 fleet is projected to reach full operational capability by 2027.

The Griffon has been in service with the RCAF since 1994. Bell delivered 100 aircraft to the service under its original 1992 acquisition contract.

Of those 100, only 85 were still in service when Ottawa issued the Griffon life-extension contract in 2022. Bell is expected to deliver the first upgraded aircraft under that programme this year.

In the interim, the RCAF Griffon fleet has dropped to 82, according to the defence ministry.

Service maintenance under the 17 January deal will take place across six Canadian provinces and includes engineering, technical and design change services, component repair and overhaul, procurement of spares and heavy maintenance services.

“Our teams deployed across the country will ensure the skills required to support the Griffon remain in Canada,” says Michael Nault, general manager of Bell Textron Canada.

CH-146 rappel c CAF

Source: Canadian Armed Forces

Bell is extending the service life of existing CH-146s under a separate $591 million contract, including the addition of upgraded cockpit displays, more capable engines and modernised avionics

Under the Canadian government’s Industrial and Technological Benefits policy, certain large defence contracts are required to support the creation of local jobs and economic activity.

“This project will have an incredible economic impact, benefiting our economy, our supply chain and, most importantly, our aerospace workers,” says industry minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

“Canada’s aerospace sector is a world leader and a huge benefit to the entire Canadian economy,” he adds.

Bell says the CH-146 service contract will maintain or create 1,130 jobs across the country.

The Canadian procurement ministry predicts the programme will contribute at least $92 million annually to Canada’s gross domestic product.

Last December, Ottawa announced it will begin stationing a contingent of RCAF CH-146s in Eastern Europe, starting in summer 2024.

The government calls the rotational force Canada’s first “persistent” deployment of tactical aviation in some 20 years.

Four Griffons will initially be assigned to the NATO enhanced forward presence battle group in Latvia, the multi-national ground combat force that Canada leads.

An unspecified number of Boeing CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters will supplement the CH-146s in 2025, according to Ottawa.