Aerial Warfare

Canadian Armed Forces Acquires Air Defence and Anti-drone Capabilities with NATO in Latvia

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Canadian Armed Forces Acquires Air Defence and Anti-drone Capabilities with NATO in Latvia

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Saab RBS 70 man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS)
Saab RBS 70 man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS)

The Minister of National Defence, Bill Blair, announced that Canadian Armed Forces members deployed to NATO’s Canada-led Battle Group in Latvia will soon have two new defensive capabilities that are being acquired on an urgent basis. This new equipment will strengthen the defence capacity of the Battle Group as a whole, further adding to the deterrence capabilities of soldiers from all contributing nations. First, Canada is investing $227.5 million in an Air Defence capability for Canadian Armed Forces members in Latvia. Canada has finalized contracts with Saab Canada Inc. to procure the RBS 70 NG short-range Air Defence System, which will provide tactical air defence protection to Canadian troops in Latvia. This capability will enable Canadian troops to defend themselves against fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters within its range, close air support aircraft, class 1 small Uncrewed Aerial Systems, and larger Uncrewed Aerial Systems.

This is the first time since 2012 that the Canadian Armed Forces will have an Air Defence capability – and the first systems are expected to be delivered later this year. Second, Canada is investing $46 million to acquire new counter-drone equipment. This will provide Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members deployed on Operation REASSURANCE with improved protection against hostile Class 1 UAS (small drones) by enabling their detection, identification, tracking, and defeat – ensuring freedom of action for land operations. Initial operational capability for this new equipment is expected later this year. The project will deliver counter-UAS systems, command and control hardware and software, sensors, non-kinetic effectors, and in service support and training.

Minister Blair announced these acquisitions during a visit to Brussels, Belgium, where he participated in a meeting of NATO Defence Ministers. Minister Blair emphasized how these new capabilities will strengthen NATO’s defence and deterrence posture on Canada’s eastern flank, where Canada leads NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia. Canada is more than doubling its military presence on Operation REASSURANCE – from about 1,000 troops currently to up to 2,200 persistently deployed troops by 2026, as Canada committed in the July 2023 Roadmap on Scaling the eFP Latvia Battle Group to Brigade. Today’s announcement follows Minister Blair’s December 2023 trip to Latvia, where he announced that Canada will deploy Royal Canadian Air Force helicopters to the Battle Group starting this summer, and highlighted Canada’s recent deployment of a Canadian Army Tank Squadron of 15 Leopard 2A4M tanks to Latvia.

During his visit to Brussels, Minister Blair also highlighted that approximately 1,000 CAF sailors, soldiers, aviators, and special forces members (including the Canadian warship HMCS Charlottetown) are currently participating in NATO’s Exercise Steadfast Defender 2024. This is the largest NATO exercise in decades and will serve to rehearse NATO’s Deterrence and Defence plans to counter threats to the Euro-Atlantic area. In addition, together with his Czech counterpart, Defence Minister Jana ?ernochová, Minister Blair also signed a Canada-Czechia Defence Cooperation memorandum of understanding (MOU). This MOU will establish a framework for cooperation and outlines how Canada and Czechia will work collaboratively to strengthen cooperation in several areas such as bilateral and multilateral training, military education, defence research and technology, and mutual logistics research.

Following a competitive procurement process, the Government of Canada has awarded three contracts to Saab Canada Inc. for the acquisition of the RBS 70 NG Soldier Portable Air Defence (AD) System as an Urgent Operational Requirement. These contracts represent a combined value of $227.5 million (excluding taxes), and include acquisition of the systems, supporting ammunition, and in-service support. Canada is also making progress on the Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) project, which will allow the Canadian Armed Forces to defeat threats posed by rocket, artillery, and mortar (RAM) munitions, air to surface missiles (ASM) and bombs, and uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) with attack aircrafts and helicopters as secondary targets. The GBAD project is in definition phase. A final Invitation to Qualify was issued on October 5, 2023, and closed on January 12, 2024.

Following a competitive procurement process, the Government of Canada awarded contracts for the acquisition and support of dismounted and fixed-site systems as part of Phase 1 of the Counter-UAS Project. The contracts have a total combined value of $46 million. The systems being acquired in Phase 1 include:

  • A contract with an estimated value of $2 million (excluding taxes) to TRD Systems of Singapore for ORION-H9 dismounted directional systems;
  • A contract with an estimated value of $19 million (excluding taxes) to CACI Inc. of the United States of America for CACI BEAM 3.0 omni-directional systems; and
  • A contract with an estimated value of $25 million (excluding taxes) to Leonardo UK Ltd. Of the United Kingdom for Falcon Shield fixed-site systems.

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