Supporting Coalition Forces in Iraq with Tactical Aviation

A door gunner keeps watch during a helicopter flight.
March 2, 2017 – A door gunner from Joint Task Force Iraq’s Tactical Aviation Detachment keeps watch during a CH-146 Griffon helicopter flight near Erbil, Iraq as a part of Operation IMPACT. (Photo: U.S. Combat Camera)


By: Captain Matt Zalot, Public Affairs Officer, Joint Task Force – Iraq, Detachment Erbil (JTF-I Erbil)

Up to four CH-146 Griffon helicopters are supporting Canadian and Coalition forces in northern Iraq. These helicopters belong to the Tactical Aviation Detachment based in Erbil. Their work is one aspect of Operation IMPACT, Canada’s contribution to the Coalition fight against Daesh.

The detachment, part of Air Task Force-Iraq (ATF-I), provides in-theatre tactical transportation for Canadian and Coalition troops, equipment, and supplies in northern Iraq. The battle captain—the officer primarily responsible for the day-to-day operations of the detachment –explains how the Griffons assist with troop mobility throughout the area of operations.

“In Iraq, we receive helicopter requests straight from the units we support. We prioritize them based on our mandate and our helicopter and aircrew capacity for that day,” said the battle captain, who cannot be named for operational security reasons. “We succeed in our mission through meticulous planning and execution in line with the Detachment Commander’s intent, and with support and oversight from the ATF-I Commander in Kuwait.”

Broadly speaking, the squadron’s operations officer provides mission instructions and the battle captain makes sure these instructions are properly carried out. The battle captain confirms details such as the preferred route and the fuel requirements. While a mission is being planned, he or she works with the mission commander, who is a pilot.

The Griffons are capable of providing casualty evacuations if required. However, their main role is tactical mobility. They quickly move soldiers and equipment to key areas by air, instead of moving by road through dangerous areas.

“We will often be tasked to bring elements from our base in the vicinity of Erbil out to tactical locations to support ground forces in the fight against Daesh. To accomplish this task in theatre, we apply the same tactics and procedures that we routinely practice at home in Canada.”

While perhaps less well-known than their fixed-wing brethren, the Tactical Aviation Detachment and its CH-146 Griffon helicopters are busy flying every day in support of the Global Coalition. They offer flexibility and mobility to Canadian and Coalition troops, and contribute to the fight to dismantle and ultimately defeat Daesh.

Image gallery

  • Two helicopters take off from the flight line.
  •  A door gunner keeps watch during a helicopter flight.
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