Facing a tighter defence budget for the next number of years, the Royal Canadian Air Force is looking hard at a midlife upgrade to the CH146 Griffon helicopter rather than a near-term replacement program. At the recent RCAF Outlook in Ottawa, Air Requirements staff said they hoped to retain the capability until 2030 and would be looking into a limited life extension program for the avionics of the fleet.

The RCAF will likely be following the National Research Council as it undertakes a digital upgrade to its Bell 412 technology demonstration helicopter, the civilian equivalent to the Griffon, beginning with a digital cockpit later this year.

But one company queuing up for a midlife avionics program will be Vector Aerospace. The Richmond, British Columbia-based company will display its CH146 Griffon Cockpit Demonstrator during CANSEC, a solution based on Rockwell Collins’ AFD-3010E.

In a press release prior to the show, Vector said that its experience on over 500 cockpit upgrades on various aircraft means it is well positioned to retrofit new generation avionics and glass cockpits into legacy helicopters and the Griffon is an ideal candidate.

“The Griffon is a very capable helicopter which would benefit greatly with an enhanced cockpit,” said Elvis Moniz, VP of operations. “Cockpit technology has evolved immensely towards helping pilots and crew fly missions more safely and efficiently.”

The Griffon, he noted, operates with a multitude of aged analog instruments, gauges and devices that could be economically replaced. “The airframes are maintained as good as, or better than, any other fleet in the world, and with a fresh cockpit, will position the helicopter to continue flying various challenging missions for many years to come.”