In The Media

Ottawa's $60B+ vision for beefier military includes new armour London defence giant says it can supply

by Norman De Bono (feat. Dave Perry)

London Free Press
June 7, 2017

As much as $1.5 billion for new military armour is up for grabs, and London’s military giant is gunning for it.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan Wednesday unveiled the Liberal government’s vision for expanding the Canadian Armed Forces, pledging more than $60 billion over 20 years, with upgrades to all facets of the military.

Canada’s armoured fleet wasn’t forgotten, with the army wanting to replace two aging types of armoured vehicles with a new one, and that’s caught the interest of defence giant General Dynamics Land Systems Canada in London, which builds light-armoured vehicles (LAVs) for a world market.

“We are ready for this future program now,” Doug Wilson-Hodge, a GDLS spokesperson, said Wednesday. “It is replacing an armoured vehicle fleet and (the government’s) requirements fit nicely with our LAV 6 program.”

The new armoured combat support vehicle will cost $500 million to $1.5 billion, for 200 to 400 vehicles, says the report. It will replace the M113 tracked light-armoured vehicle and the London-built LAV II Bison.

“The project will deliver a protected support vehicle to sustain the Canadian army light and heavy armoured fighting vehicle fleets on domestic and expeditionary operations,” says a military report on the program.

“It will be a general-utility combat support vehicle that will fulfil a wide variety of support roles on the battlefield, including but not limited to protected ambulance, command and control, engineer, and maintenance repair teams. It will provide a high degree of manoeuvrability and protection to its crew and payload.”

Last week, at a Canadian defence conference in Ottawa, called CANSEC, GDLS unveiled two armoured vehicles suited exactly to that role.

“The LAV 6.0 combat support vehicle-­ambulance (CSV-A) and the LAV 6.0 combat support vehicle-maintenance and recovery (CSV-MR) are evolutions of the LAV 6.0 baseline vehicle,”, a military publication, said in a report on the conference.

“Both vehicles were designed toward requirements in Canada’s competitive armoured combat support vehicle (ACSV) contract.”

GDLS, on Oxford Street, manufactures light armoured vehicles for countries around the world.

GDLS employs more than 2,000 people and is the largest company in a cluster of defence-related industries in London.

The new Canadian contract won’t be awarded until 2023, with delivery expected from 2026 to 2036.

“This is absolutely good news for the plant. It would make sense, from an efficiency perspective, to build off the existing (vehicle) variant” now made at GDLS in London, said David Perry, senior analyst at the Global Affairs Institute.

“This is a significant program.”

Perry praised the $60-billion announcement, calling it a sea change from a government that campaigned on maintaining, not building, its military.

“This is an ambitious defence policy, more than what was expected,” he said.

Sajjan was in London in February, announcing a $404-million upgrade to 141 armoured vehicles. Ottawa has also spent about $1.5 billion since 2011 upgrading 550 LAV III vehicles.

“It is great news, it could have manufacturing impact in the London region, with more than 40 other defence industries here,” said Kapil Lakhotia, chief executive of London Economic Development Corp.

“It’s a positive announcement about investing in (the) Canadian Armed Forces.”

For London, the lift a new contract could bring could extend beyond building the vehicle, said the head of the union at the GDLS Canada plant.

“It would be great to have this diversification. There will be a big benefit here to research and development. It is great news for London,” said Jim Reid, chairperson of Unifor Local 27, representing some of the workers.

The plant is expected to be hiring, replacing retiring workers, he added.

GDLS also landed a contract to supply vehicles for the largest export deal in Canadian history, Ottawa’s $15-billion contract to export vehicles to Saudi Arabia. However, the production timeline has been slowed by design changes and delivery timelines have been altered.

“We were all hoping the Saudi deal would put us over the top, but it has not been as robust as expected,” said Reid.

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