The Canada First Defence Strategy provides the Canadian Forces (CF) with a vision for future operations as well as a plan for consistent, committed long-term funding. This recognition and unprecedented commitment by the Government will ensure the military continues to maintain excellence in operations at home and in North America, as well as the ability to play a leadership role abroad. A comprehensive and long-term funding framework, coupled with key decisions related to future capabilities ensures the CF will be a modern, flexible force, capable of defending Canada and Canadian interests well into the future.
The Canada First Defence Strategy signifies a new era for the Canadian Forces. Key elements of this rejuvenation have been in the works for a number of years. Critical government decisions were necessary to address the Canadian Forces’ immediate need to replace aging and outdated capabilities. The Government took action and has already taken significant steps towards rebuilding the Canadian Forces. Consistent with the defence vision laid out in consecutive Throne Speeches, the Government moved to acquire vital new pieces of equipment to modernize CF capabilities.
In the past 36 months, the government has announced plans to replace existing fleets, such as tactical transport aircraft, tanks and medium trucks, and to acquire new capabilities, such as strategic lift aircraft, medium- to heavy-lift helicopters and Arctic/offshore patrol ships, delivering on its Canada First commitment to strengthen Canada’s defence force.
This first step forward for the Canada First Defence Strategy included the announced procurements of:
-- Strategic Airlift
-- Tactical Airlift
-- Medium- to heavy-lift helicopters
-- Joint Support Ships
-- Medium-sized logistic trucks
-- Arctic Off-Shore Patrol Ships
-- Leopard II Tanks
As well as the:
-- Modernization of the Halifax Class Frigates
-- Establishment of a deep water docking and refueling facility in Nanisivik
The government of Canada identified a more rapidly deployable military as one of its top priorities, and moved quickly and efficiently to acquire a strategic airlift capability for the Canadian Forces. Strategic airlift is the rapid transport of a large number of passengers and/or over-sized heavy cargo over long distances within Canada or between Canada and a theatre of operations. Today’s changing and uncertain global environment demands Canada’s military have its own rapid, reliable and independent access to strategic airlift – enabling the CF to meet unexpected demands at home and around the world by reducing response time, increasing load capacity and providing increased flexibility. In August 2007, first of four Boeing C-17 strategic airlift aircraft arrived in Canada. The Canadian Forces has since taken delivery of all four aircraft.
Tactical airlift acts as the lifeline of deployed forces, transporting equipment troops and supplies to, within, and from a theatre of operations. On Operation Archer, in Afghanistan, the CC-130 Hercules aircraft provides tactical airlift on a daily basis, without which the mission could not be sustained. In January 2008, the Department of National Defence awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin to acquire 17 new C-130J tactical airlift aircraft. This contract is required to meet the current and future operational demands for tactical airlift to ensure the Canadian Forces continue to fulfill its mission. The Government is confident that the C-130J will provide Canada with a cost-effective, operations-proven tactical airlift capability. Delivery of the first aircraft is scheduled for winter 2010.
Medium- to heavy-lift helicopters
The Government of Canada recognizes the vital need for medium-to heavy-lift helicopters and is currently engaged in negotiations with Boeing to acquire 16 Chinook helicopters for the Canadian Forces as soon as possible. Medium- to heavy- lift helicopters will significantly enhance the mobility and flexibility of the CF while strengthening Canada’s contribution to the international missions. A medium-to heavy-lift helicopter capability will allow the Canadian Forces to reach remote locations in a wider range of geographic areas and challenging environments inaccessible by ground-based transport or fixed-wing aircraft. With the Canadian Forces’ increasing focus on joint operations and expeditionary forces, this capability will serve as a paramount asset in responding to disaster situations and terrorist attacks, both at home and around the world.
Joint Support Ships
The Joint Support Ships will enhance the Canadian Forces ability to safeguard Canada’s domestic maritime security and sovereignty. The Joint Support Ship project will deliver three multi-role vessels with substantially more capability than the Navy’s current fleet of replenishment ships (HMCS Protecteur and HMCS Preserver). In addition to being able to provide at-sea support (re-fuelling and re-supply functions) to deployed naval task groups, they will also be capable of sealift operations as well as support to forces deployed ashore. The ships will provide the vital lifeline of supply and support to other Canadian navy ships as well as to army and air force assets in certain deployed operations.
Medium Support Vehicle System (Medium-sized logistics trucks)
The Government is moving to procure approximately 2,300 new medium-sized logistics trucks and associated equipment. The new fleet of trucks will contribute to the rebuilding of Canada's land forces’ ability to provide logistical support on the ground and represent an essential investment for the Canadian Forces. The Regular and Reserve Forces will use the trucks in a wide range of roles—from support to deployed operations to domestic emergencies. The Medium Sized Vehicle System program includes both the acquisition of MilCOTS (Militarized Commercial Off The Shelf; commercial vehicles adapted for military use) and SMP (Standard Military Pattern; designed specifically for military use) trucks. The Request For Proposal for the MilCOTS fleet was released in November 2007, with the Request For Proposal for the SMP fleet due for release in the summer of 2008.
Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships
Recognizing that the Canadian Forces play a critical role in asserting Arctic sovereignty, the Government announced the acquisition of six to eight arctic/offshore patrol ships for the Canadian Navy, enhancing Canada’s ability to assert sovereignty over its territorial waters – particularly in the Arctic. The Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships will provide the flexibility for the Navy to operate in both the Arctic and offshore environments, allowing them to be used year-round in a variety of roles, including domestic surveillance, search and rescue and support to other government departments. This project is currently in the definition phase with the Navy expected to take first delivery in 2013.
Leopard II Tanks
The Canadian Government also moved quickly to renew the Canadian Forces’ tank capability, announcing the acquisition and loan of Leopard 2 tanks for the Army. These Leopard 2 tanks are newer, more heavily armoured and more technologically advanced than Canada’s older fleet of Leopard 1s. Their advanced features include significantly increased personnel protection against explosive devices and landmines, an ability to travel considerably faster in difficult terrain, more powerful engines, and stronger firing capabilities. The government secured the loan of 20 combat-ready Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks from Germany and these were deployed to Afghanistan in the summer of 2007, where they have already proven their worth. To meet long-term requirements, 100 surplus Leopard 2 tanks were purchased from the Netherlands. This move addresses both immediate, critical operational issues of crew comfort and improved personnel protection, and will strengthen the Canadian Forces’ capacity to defend Canada’s national interests for many years to come.
Halifax Class Modernization
The Government is proceeding with a project to refit and modernize the Canadian navy’s Halifax-class frigates. The twelve Halifax-Class frigates, commissioned between 1992 and 1995, form the backbone of the Canadian Navy. They were designed to deal with threats associated with the Cold War environment. Since the end of the Cold War, the role of these frigates has changed, requiring equipment upgrades in order to deal with current or emerging threats. This refit and upgrade process will enhance their capabilities, and ensure that the Navy can work with allies into the future to effectively meet threats at sea. A thoroughly modernized frigate will be able to better defend our coastal approaches, and to play an increased and valued role in international operations with coalition partners. Modernization of the frigates will begin in 2010, with the final ship being completed in 2017.
Deep Water Docking & Refueling Facility
The development of a deep water docking and refueling facility in Nanisivik, Nunavut, will also improve Canada’s ability to exercise its sovereignty over coastal waters in the Arctic region by enabling the Canadian Forces to maintain a federal presence in Canada's Arctic waters throughout the navigable season. This facility will serve as a staging area for naval vessels on station in the high Arctic, enabling them to re-supply, refuel, embark equipment and supplies, and transfer personnel.