About the Griffin HT1


Two distinct Griffin variants are in RAF service, the HAR.Mk 2, operated by 84 Squadron as a multi-role helicopter from its RAF Akrotiri base, and the HT.Mk 1, flown by 60(R) and 202(R) Sqns as part of the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS).  In the support helicopter role, the Griffin HAR2 carries six fully-equipped troops, or up to eight if operationally essential.  It also employs underslung Bambi Buckets for fire fighting and has a vital search and rescue (SAR) mission, as well as taking force protection, military aid to civilian authorities and ISTAR roles.


The Griffin HAR2 is equipped with night-vision goggles and a FLIR/ TV turret, which affords its crews a relevant night capability.  Owing to the hot, arid climate of its Cyprus base, the HAR2 regularly employs its crucial fire fighting capability across the region.  Other capabilities include search and rescue.

The HT1 lacks the weather radar and one or two other of the HAR2’s operational features, but is equipped to deliver comprehensive multi-engine helicopter training to future frontline pilots and rear crew.  It also equips 202(R) Sqn, formerly the SAR Training Unit, providing UK military helicopter pilots with SAR and mountain flying training.

A Griffin HT1 helicopter on a routine training flight.
Helicopter training for future pilots.
Image by: Ian Forshaw


In 1955, the US Army chose Bell’s Model 204 to satisfy its requirement for a casevac and utility transport helicopter. The first of three XH-40 prototypes of the Model 204 completed its maiden flight on October 23, 1956.  Six YH-40 development aircraft followed before the first of the HU-1A production aircraft, which quickly gained the nickname ‘Huey’.

HU-1 became UH-1 under the 1962 consolidation of US military aircraft designation systems and a plethora of improved models followed, especially in response to the demands of the war in Vietnam.  The Model 205 introduced a longer fuselage from 1963, initially as the UH-1D, and the model became the basis of the Model 212, delivered to the USAF from 1970 as the UH-1N.

The Model 212 featured the unusual PT6T, a combination of two turbines driving a single shaft, for much increased power reserves.  With the revised powerplant there was clearly more performance to be extracted from the airframe and Bell achieved this by installing an uprated engine and four-bladed main rotor to create the Bell 412, which first flew in 1979.  The type was delivered from 1981, and in 1992 the Canadian Armed Forces ordered 100 of the CH-146 Griffon variant.  Variations of the name stuck with the type, which remains in production for the civilian and para-military markets.

In RAF service, 84 Squadron operates three aircraft supplied and maintained by civilian company Cobham, but operated by experienced military aircrew.  The DHFS Griffins are scheduled to be withdrawn from 2018, when the Airbus Helicopters H145 begins replacing them.

Header image by Sgt Jack Pritchard


Bell Griffin:

  • Powerplant: one 1,800shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6T-3D Turbo Twin-Pac turboshaft
  • Length overall, rotors turning: 56ft 1¾in (17.11m)
  • Height: 11ft 5in (3.48m) Main rotor diameter 46ft (14.02m)
  • Main rotor disc area: 1,661.90sqft (154.40m2)
  • Maximum takeoff weight around: 11,900lb (5,397kg)
  • Never exceed speed: 140kt (259km/h)
  • Range with maximum payload: around 375nm (695km)
  • Maximum altitude: 20,000ft

Other aircraft with similar roles