Tuesday, July 7, 2009


By David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen
July 7, 2009

The Harper government has approved a plan to purchase new armoured vehicles for the Canadian Forces and is set to announce that it has finally reached a deal on the purchase of additional Chinook helicopters.

The government is now trying to decide how best to roll out the military projects, which total almost $10 billion, for maximum public-relations value.

The helicopter and armoured-vehicle programs are expected to be among a number of defence-related announcements to be made throughout the coming months by the government, according to defence insiders.

On Tuesday morning, Defence Minister Peter MacKay will be in Gander, N.L., to make an announcement at the search-and-rescue squadron there. The announcement will be about 9 Wing Gander, but other details are not being released at this point, according to the Defence Department. Earlier this year, Mac-Kay went across the country making a series of announcements about infrastructure improvements at various bases.

Asked about the Chinook and armoured-vehicle projects, MacKay's press secretary Jay Paxton said: "We have nothing to announce." He added that when a project is to be announced, the news media will be informed.

Officials with Boeing, the manufacturer of the Chinook helicopters, referred all questions about the deal to the Canadian government. But in an interview in May, Boeing business-development manager Richard Meanor said he expected a government announcement on the Chinook deal by the end of the summer.

The Harper government originally announced its intention to buy 16 Chinooks in the summer of 2006, but negotiations with Boeing have been slow because Canada wanted a variety of changes made to the aircraft. In the meantime, the Canadian Forces also purchased six used Chinook helicopters from the U.S. military for immediate use in Afghanistan.

The 16 Chinooks aren't expected to be delivered until after 2011, the end of Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan, according to various Conservative cabinet ministers.

In the summer of 2006, the Defence Department noted that the

total cost of the purchase of the 16 Chinooks would be around $4.7 billion. That included a 20-year support package for the aircraft.

The armoured-vehicle purchases would include what is being called a close-combat vehicle that would be used to accompany the army's Leopard 2 tanks. The acquisitions will also include a new armoured tactical patrol vehicle and an upgrade of the existing LAV-3 fleet that has been worn down by continued use in Afghanistan. Also added to the package is the purchase of a new armoured engineering vehicle.

Defence industry officials estimate the value of the armoured-vehicle purchases total around $5 billion.

The approval by the government of the purchases now sets in motion the process for the Defence Department to officially begin the projects and receive funding from Treasury Board. The individual programs will then unfold over the next seven to 10 years.

According to a timeline of the procurements obtained by the Citizen, the bulk of the money for the close-combat vehicle and the tactical armoured patrol vehicle would be spent from 2013 to 2016. It is unclear whether the Conservative government will move more quickly than that with the procurements.

At one point, consideration was being given to announce both the Chinook deal and the armoured vehicle package all at once at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, but that plan did not proceed, say defence insiders.

Late last year, army commander Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie said the purchase of the new vehicles could be used as part of the government's economic stimulus to create jobs. In particular, the upgrades of the LAV-3s would be attractive to the Conservatives since that work would likely be done at General Dynamics Land Systems Canada facilities in London, Ont., and Edmonton.

The rest of the vehicle purchases would be from foreign firms, with industrial input from Canadian companies. Some firms, such as DEW Engineering of Ottawa, have already joined forces with BAE

Systems of Britain in anticipation of the close-combat vehicle program.

A number of exhibitors at the recent CANSEC military trade show held in Ottawa were also highlighting what they could offer the Canadian Forces.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news go to the Ottawa Citizen and David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at: