VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Canada’s special operations forces will try once again to purchase a new fleet of vehicles for long-range reconnaissance patrols and urban warfare.
The first attempt to purchase such vehicles began in 2008 but was put on hold two years later after procurement officials with the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) determined that existing vehicles on the market did not meet requirements.
But military sources said the command overreached on its requirements the first time around and will now take a more realistic approach. They expect to buy an off-the-shelf vehicle now in service with allied special operations units and then modify the vehicles to meet specific Canadian needs.
CANSOFCOM wants to purchase 100 vehicles, with the project estimated to cost around CAN $100 million (US $98 million).
The special reconnaissance, or SR, variant would be primarily used for off-road travel and long-range patrols. The SR variant would be required to operate independently for extended periods in enemy territory, carry its maintenance and logistics materials, and be able to operate on substandard fuel if needed.
A quick-reaction variant would be designed for operations, primarily in urban terrain, and since it would be exposed to a greater degree of enemy threat, it would require a high level of protection.
CANSOFCOM declined to comment on the new procurement, but sources said the command expects to go to industry in late May or early June to gauge interest in the project. Delivery of a new vehicle fleet would be set for early 2015. The new vehicles would be operated by the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, located at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, but provided to other Canadian spec ops units as needed.
The vehicles are to replace Humvees that were purchased in April 2002 for use in Afghanistan. CANSOFCOM refers to those as reconnaissance-direct action vehicles. Those vehicles, which are armored, have returned from Afghanistan and have undergone a refit and overhaul.
Martin Shadwick, a strategic studies professor at York University in Toronto, said this time CANSOFCOM is proceeding in a manner that makes sense.
Since Canada orders equipment so infrequently, the military tends to place excessive requirements that industry has trouble meeting under a limited budget, Shadwick said.
“We tend to go for an all-singing, all-dancing approach as in this first [special operations] procurement, but that ultimately works against us,” he said. “Sometimes, having a vehicle that doesn’t meet all of your requirements, but meets, say, 95 percent of them, is the way to go, rather than risking burning the entire project down.”
CANSOFCOM did not release details on which requirements current vehicles could not meet during the first attempt at procuring such systems.
In December 2011, CANSOFCOM commander Brig. Gen. Denis Thompson told Defense News that the command also has a representative assigned to monitor the Canadian Army’s procurement of a new tactical armored patrol vehicle (TAPV).
The Army selected Textron Canada of Ottawa to build those wheeled armored vehicles; one variant would be for a general utility requirement, the other for reconnaissance. The first deliveries of both variants of the TAPV are expected to begin in 2014.
Thompson left open the option that CANSOFCOM might decide to piggyback on the Army order and acquire some TAPVs for its own purposes.