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Canada's helicopters fly together for the last time in Afghanistan

26th August 2011 - 06:30 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


One after another, three CH-147 Chinook transport helicopters and five CH-146 Griffon tactical helicopters from Task Force Freedom (also known as the Canadian Helicopter Force Afghanistan or CFHA) touched down and completed their final mission in Afghanistan.

This final flight, conducted July 27, 2011, was both an operational mission in support of the consolidation of personnel and material and a training mission as crew members took advantage of the last time the Canadian Chinooks and Griffons would fly together in Afghanistan. The air crew are expected to leave Kandahar Airfield in early August as the Joint Task Force Afghanistan (JTF-Afg) Air Wing commences its final drawdown.

“It’s the last time that we’ll fly three Chinooks at the same time, and it has been the only time on this tour that we’ve actually flown the three Chinooks in tactical formation,” said Major Colin Coakwell, who commands the Chinook squadron.

In January 2009, a CH-147 Chinook made its debut flight in theatre shortly after Canada received the aircraft from the U.S. Army. With the CH-147D Chinook, the JTF-Afg Air Wing gained one of the world’s most powerful workhorse helicopters for moving troops and supplies in theatre.

A twin-engine medium-to-heavy-lift helicopter capable of carrying large quantities of cargo and soldiers, the CH-147 Chinook allowed the Air Wing to conduct missions that included troop movements and the transportation of equipment and supplies.

The CH-146 Griffon utility tactical transport helicopter provided the larger Chinook with escort and overwatch support. The Griffon also provided ground forces in the area of operations with command and liaison, reconnaissance and surveillance, and armed overwatch.

“Tremendous assets, both the Griffon and the Chinook, but the Chinook was particularly valuable in moving personnel and cargo and minimizing troops traveling on the road,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Brian Derry, commanding officer of Task Force Freedom. Together, they increased the protection available to troops travelling both by transport helicopter and in road convoys.

The in-theatre air capacity of Task Force Freedom helped save the lives of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops and Afghan soldiers and police by reducing their exposure to ambushes, landmines and improvised explosive devices when travelling on the ground. By decreasing the risk to troops, the helicopters also reduced the danger level for Afghan civilians.

After disembarking from one of the freshly landed Griffon helicopters, LCol Derry explained, “We’re taking the opportunity to refine a lot of our tactics, techniques and procedures before we leave theatre because, after we leave here, we won’t have an opportunity to fly with Chinooks for probably a number of years.”

“The completion of the last operational mission for CFHA marks the end of an incredible 30-month journey for Canadian tactical aviation in Afghanistan,” said Colonel Al Meinzinger, commander of the Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing. “I am proud of their accomplishments. They have supported combat operations with professionalism and purpose.”

By: Captain Susan Magill - Canadian Armed Forces

The Shephard News Team


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