Canadian LAV-3 in Afghanistan (Photo: Canadian Armed Forces)
Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced last week that his government is planning on laying out $5 billion for the purchase of new combat vehicles for its armed forces, and to maintain an existing fleet that is showing signs of wear due to action in Afghanistan since 2002. About $1 billion of the total will be spent on refitting and repairing 550 of the eight-wheeled LAV IIIs, the workhorse of Canadian forces in Afghanistan, which are essentially a heavier version of the Stryker used by American forces.
The LAV work will include things like an upgrade of the powertrain, suspension, running gear and brakes, as well as additions to the weapon system and more armor. The remaining $4 billion is to be spent on procuring three new vehicles, which include
108 close-combat vehicles (with an option to buy 30 more) to work with the army's Leopard tanks.
500 tactical armoured patrol vehicles (with an option to buy 100 more).
13 force mobility enhancement vehicles (with an option to buy five more) to carry equipment such as plows and building materials.
The Close Combat Vehicles are intended to “bridge the gap between light armoured vehicles (five to 20 tonnes) and heavy armoured vehicles (more than 45 tonnes), coming in between 25 and 45 tonnes,” according to the Canadian government, while the Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle is being envisioned as replacing the RG-31 Armoured Patrol Vehicle and the LAV 2 reconnaissance vehicle.
What’s most interesting about this is that contracts for these new vehicles won’t be awarded until 2011, while the “fully operational” fleet won’t hit the ground until 2015—four years after the 2011 pull-out date Canada has announced for its troops in Afghanistan. Every country has to upgrade its military gear from time to time, but does this latest round of spending signal a possible longer commitment to Afghanistan than the government is publicly letting on?