Canada is establishing its own little air force in Afghanistan. The
Canadian Air Wing will have, by next year, six leased Russian made Mi-8
transport helicopters, six newly purchased U.S. CH-47 transport helicopters and
eight Canadian made CH-146 armed transports to escort the larger choppers. The
Wing will have about 450 personnel to support the twenty helicopters.
function of the choppers will be to keep Canadian troops off the roads, where
half the casualties have been suffered because of roadside bombs. Previous to
the establishment of the Wing, the 2,500 Canadian troops had much less access
to helicopter transport than their American or NATO allies fighting in the
south. This is the first time, since the Korean War (1950-53) that Canadian forces
have established an Air Wing in a combat zone.
The 22 ton
CH-47F can carry ten tons of cargo, or up to 55 troops, and has a maximum range
of 426 kilometers. Its max speed is 315 kilometers an hour. Typical missions
last no more than three hours.
The 12 ton
Mi-8 can carry three tons (or up to 24 passengers) and has a max speed of 240
kilometers an hour and about the same range as the CH-47. Typical missions can
last up to four hours.
The 5.3 ton
CH-146 is actually the Bell 412, which is in turn an updated version of the
Bell 212, which is a civilian version of the 1960s era U.S. Army UH-1
("Huey"). Built in Canada, the CH-146s normally carry twelve troops,
and no weapons. But such helicopters have been equipped with machine-guns and
rockets and have no problem keeping up with the CH-47s and Mi-8s.