VICTORIA, British Columbia — The Canadian military will fast-track the purchase of new anti-tank missiles, air defense systems and counter-drone equipment for its battlegroup in Latvia.

Defence Minister Anita Anand announced the acquisition plans on March 9, noting the systems are urgent operational requirements in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“These projects will better equip our Canadian Armed Forces members deployed on NATO’s eastern flank with the capabilities that they need,” Anand told retired and serving military officers at the Conference of Defence Associations’ annual meeting in Ottawa. “Canada’s leadership of the NATO battlegroup in Latvia demonstrates our unwavering commitment to the alliance.”

Canada currently has about 700 troops in Latvia.

The Canadian military is calling the first tranche of equipment it will buy a portable anti-X missile system, or PAXM. That project will acquire anti-tank missiles, plus simulators for training.

The country will soon issue a request for bids and award a contract in mid-2023, according to Department of National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier.

The department declined to release budget details on the three new projects.

Canadian troops in Latvia will also soon receive a counter-drone system. The Counter Uncrewed Aircraft System program, or CUAS, will see the force purchase a system to protect against small drones. A request for information was issued to defense and aerospace firms on March 2.

The country is expected to award contracts for various systems in fall 2023 and January 2024. The military plans to acquire both vehicle-mounted and fixed-site systems.

The air defense project will see a soldier-portable very-short-range air defense system equip Canadian units in Latvia. The release of a request for bids is expected in the summer. The Canadian military hopes to award a contract in early 2024, Le Bouthillier said.

Canadian troops have been stationed in Latvia since 2017. In June 2022, the Canadian government reaffirmed its commitment to Latvia, noting it would improve command-and-control, air defense, and anti-tank capabilities.

In addition, Canada has spent more than CA$1 billion (U.S. $724 million) on equipping Ukraine’s military since Russia invaded the country in February 2022.

On Jan. 10, the Canadian government announced it would purchase a surface-to-air missile system for Ukraine, but no further details are available.

David Pugliese is the Canada correspondent for Defense News.

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