CH-147D Chinook operations in Afghanistan were not without risk. Two Canadian Chinooks were lost in Afghanistan. The first was downed by insurgent fire near forward operating Base Masum Ghar on August 5, 2010, and the second rolled over on landing in dusty conditions while conducting a night air assault mission on May 16, 2011.
The value of the D-model Chinook helicopters was clearly highlighted by Canadian operational experience in Afghanistan, with six employed as part of Canada’s Air Wing in Kandahar. These aircraft were purchased from the United States in 2009 to provide an interim capability for the Canadian Armed Forces.
Aircraft 147201 arrived at 8 Wing Trenton on November 17, 2016. It will be re-assembled and painted, and put on display at Trenton’s National Air Force Museum of Canada. Aircraft 147206 arrived at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa on November 18. It will be re-assembled, refinished and put on display as a gate guard outside 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron.
These workhorse helicopters helped to save lives in Afghanistan every day, and contributed significantly to mission success by rapidly transporting troops and equipment to locations that would be more dangerous or impossible to reach by ground.
Two of the original D-model Chinooks were damaged beyond repair while in operation in Afghanistan. The remaining two have been sold.
The Department of National Defence acquired 15 F-model Chinooks (also known as CH-147Fs) with delivery taking place 2013-2014. The CH-147Fs are flown by 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron at CFB Petawawa.
C-models retired in 1991
Canada’s eight CH-147C Chinook helicopters were flown from 1974 until 1991, primarily by 447 Transport Helicopter Squadron in Edmonton and 450 Transport Helicopter Squadron in Ottawa. 447 Squadron was disbanded in July 1991 and 450 Squadron in Ottawa became 450 Composite Helicopter Squadron (later 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron), flying CH-135 Twin Hueys. 450 Squadron was formally disbanded on January 1, 1998.
But you can’t keep a good helicopter down. As a result of the Manley Report, prepared by the Independent Panel on Canada’s
Future Role in Afghanistan and submitted to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in January 2008, Canada acquired CH-147D Chinooks from the United States to use in Afghanistan. Later, the Royal Canadian Air Force began the process of acquiring 15 brand new CH-147F Chinooks to operate domestically and internationally. The new Chinooks began arriving in 2013 and delivery was completed a year later. The helicopters are once again flown by 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, which was re-established on May 2, 2012.
Canada’s D-model Chinooks retire
By Joanna Calder
As the last Chinook helicopter auxiliary power unit shut off on July 30, 2011, Kandahar Airfield’s X-Ray ramp fell silent, marking the end of the Canadian Helicopter Force Afghanistan’s (CHFA) operations, and the retirement of Canada’s D-model Chinooks.
“X-Ray” was the name of the ramp that the CHFA operated out of at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The CHFA was known as either Task Force Freedom or Task Force Faucon, depending on which squadron was fulfilling the role.
As part of the interim medium-lift capability, six D-model CH-147 Chinooks were purchased from the U.S. Army in 2008 for operations in Afghanistan, to overcome the lack of aviation support available to Canadian troops in theatre and to mitigate the risk from threats such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) routinely placed on roads by insurgents.
Because Canada had not operated the Chinook since the early 1990s, an ambitious training program was required before operations in Afghanistan began. Initial qualification training was conducted by the U.S. Army in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, and completed at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Aircraft maintainers were trained at the Boeing plant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Building on the experience that the aircrew and technicians brought from the CH-146 Griffon and other aircraft fleets, the training established a baseline of experience on the Chinook.
Additional operational training (called “seasoning”) was conducted with U.S. Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve units across the United States to draw on operational lessons learned. Chinook aircrew also drew on procedures from the U.S. Army and the U.K.’s Royal Air Force to develop procedures and tactics for use by the CFHA.
Chinook aircrew deployed on a staggered schedule, with a new crew of two pilots and two flight engineers arriving in theatre about once a month. Canadian Army door-gunners were also employed, bringing combat arms experience to the crews.
Established during Operation Athena’s Roto 6, the CHFA’s aviation assets supported the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command South, a relationship that saw CHFA aircraft supporting Canadian and coalition forces in Kandahar and Helmand provinces.
The majority of the missions flown by the CHFA were “sustainment” missions – the routine transport of personnel and cargo from Kandahar Air Field (KAF) to outlying FOBs – which were often conducted as part of scheduled “Ring Route”. Ring Route was the term given to flights where the Chinooks would conduct a series of landings at numerous bases throughout a given day. Cargo was carried inside the helicopter and outside as slung loads. The majority of the missions included CH-146 Griffon escorts to protect the Chinooks from insurgent threats.
“Deliberate” missions, on the other hand, were planned to take advantage of aviation’s speed and surprise to carry ground forces into specific areas. Often conducted at night and requiring a considerable amount of time and effort to plan, these missions required additional support from other Canadian and coalition assets, including unmanned aerial vehicles to look for insurgent activity in the vicinity of the landing zones and transport aircraft such as Canadian CC-130 Hercules aircraft to drop infrared flares during low light level conditions.