Canadian-made Griffon helicopters arrive in Kandahar

The first of Canada's armed CH-146 Griffon helicopters arrived at Kandahar Airfield on Saturday.

The first of Canada's armed CH-146 Griffon helicopters arrived at Kandahar Airfield on Saturday.

The six helicopters, and two more that are expected to be deployed early next year, will provide escort and protection for the larger U.S. CH-47D Chinook transport helicopters also being used by Canadians based in southern Afghanistan.

The lumbering Chinooks are more vulnerable to attack by ground fire and rocket-propelled grenades, so they typically travel with smaller, armed escorts like the Griffons.

The smaller craft have been given extra sensors and Gatling guns on top of their existing side-door machine-guns and armour plating, military officials say.

The Griffons will give air cover to ground convoys and will be on standby to evacuate battlefield casualties, they say.

The commander of Canada's air wing, Col. Christopher Coates, said the Griffons may also be used to spot roadside bombs, which have killed more than half of the 103 Canadian soldiers lost in the Afghanistan mission since it began in 2002.

With files from the Canadian Press