Saturday, November 25, 2006

More equipment for Canadian Forces?

All the major pieces will have fallen into place if Cabinet gives the go-ahead. Only the amphibious ship, aka "Big Honking Ship" will remain (almost certainly not before the election).
The federal cabinet is poised to sign off on a new master plan for the Canadian Forces that will include billions more for new military equipment.

CTV News has learned that the Department of National Defence has submitted its "Canada First Defence Strategy", a so-called defence capabilities plan that sketches out the sorts of missions the military should be prepared to carry out and what kind of role it ought to play over the next several decades in support of Canadian foreign policy and Canadian domestic policy.

At the same time, cabinet is considering four different procurement projects that are being pushed by Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor...

Cabinet is being asked to sign off on four procurement projects:

* Fixed-wing Search-and-Rescue Aircaft. Cabinet is being asked to approve a $3.4-billion package for planes to replace Canada's fleet of C-115 Buffalo aircraft. Industry experts the favourites to win this contract are Alenia North America Inc.'s C-27J Spartan or the C-295 from EADS/CASA, a consortium of European manufacturers. Canada's Bombardier may also compete for this contract with its Dash-8 [actually Q Series now] although few give it much of a chance of winning [thank goodness: see preceding link].

* Utility Transport Aircraft. Bombardier is the favourite to win this contract, valued at about $380-million, with its Dash-8 contract [sic]. [Bombardier had to get something. These planes are supposed to replace the Twin Otters that operate out of Yellowknife. Q Series would be fine for most missions but don't have the STOL capability for some--how will this gap be filled?]

* An Arctic Patrol Vessel. The Conservatives had promised to put an armed navy icebreaker into service in the North but that plan is prohibitively expensive. Instead, the military is proposing to put an armed frigate with a reinforced hull that can operate in what is known as "fresh ice" that is less than a year-old. It's not clear what the costs for this project would be...[Thank goodness the silly armed Navy icebreakers promise has been broken, although I still doubt the real defence--as opposed to political--need for these ships. See the Predate here for info on the type of vessel involved, based on a Norwegian class.]

* Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): These drones can hover above a battlefield acting as the eyes for the troops and artillery on the ground. Some drones can also be outfitted with missiles to attack targets on the ground...In a peacetime role, unmanned aerial vehicles could also play a role doing surveillance work in the Arctic.
Despite my earlier carping and doubts, I am amazed at the speed with which the Conservative government has moved massively to re-equip the Canadian Forces with the right equipment they so desperately need. More here and here. Good on the government if these final procurements are approved.

The one scandal will be if the Arctic ships are built in Canada at excessive cost and time--it's almost certain the JSS vessels will be built here with the same penalties, but let's not add to the problem. But then politics with ship acquisitions rules all.

In any event, contracts for the C-130Js, the Joint Supply Ships and the equipment listed in the story above are still some way down the road; if the Conservatives lose a new election before next fall much could go "poof" in the night.

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