Num comunicado de imprensa late last week, the Canadian Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Bill Blair, disclosed that Canadian Armed Forces personnel stationed in NATO’s Canada-led Battle Group in Latvia will soon have access to two newly acquired defensive capabilities. This swift acquisition of equipment is designed to enhance the overall defensive capacity of the Battle Group, thereby reinforcing the deterrence capabilities of soldiers hailing from various contributing nations.

To begin, a commitment of $227.5 million from Canada is underway to establish an Air Defence capability for members of the Canadian Armed Forces stationed in Latvia. Saab Canada Inc. has been awarded contracts to procure the RBS 70 NG short-range Air Defence System, furnishing Canadian troops in Latvia with tactical air defense protection. This capability equips Canadian forces to safeguard against fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters within its operational range, close air support aircraft, and class 1 small Uncrewed Aerial Systems and larger Uncrewed Aerial Systems. Notably, this marks the first instance since 2012 that the Canadian Armed Forces will possess an Air Defence capability, with the initial systems anticipated to be delivered later this year.

Additionally, Canada is directing a $46 million investment towards acquiring advanced contra-drone equipment. This initiative aims to enhance protection for Canadian Armed Forces members engaged in Operation REASSURANCE, specifically against hostile Class 1 UAS (small drones). The new equipment will facilitate the detection, identification, tracking, and defeat of drones, ensuring improved freedom of action for land operations. Anticipated to achieve initial operational capability later this year, the project encompasses the delivery of contra-UAS systems, command and control hardware and software, sensors, and non-kinetic effectors, as well as in-service support and training.

Canada Reaffirms the Importance of NATO

Minister Blair unveiled these acquisitions at a NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium. He highlighted the significance of these new capabilities in bolstering NATO’s defense and deterrence stance on Canada’s eastern flank, where Canada spearheads NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia. This move is part of Canada’s commitment outlined in the July 2023 Roadmap on Scaling the eFP Latvia Battle Group to Brigade, as the country aims to more than double its military presence on Operation REASSURANCE, increasing from approximately 1,000 troops to a persistent deployment of up to 2,200 troops by 2026.

“Canada’s support for the NATO Alliance is steadfast. By investing in Air Defence and anti-drone capabilities for Canadian troops, we are also bolstering the defensive capabilities of the NATO Battle Group in Latvia as a whole,” said The Honourable Bill Blair. “Through our leadership of the Battle Group in Latvia and our many other contributions to NATO – including our current participation in Exercise Steadfast Defender – Canada will continue to work with our Allies to strengthen Euro-Atlantic security.”

The Path Forward

After a competitive procurement process, the Government of Canada has awarded three contracts to Saab Canada Inc. totaling $227.5 million (excluding taxes) to acquire the RBS 70 NG Soldier Portable Air Defence (AD) System as an Urgent Operational Requirement. These contracts encompass the systems, supporting ammunition, and in-service support.

Additionally, progress is underway on the Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) project, enabling the Canadian Armed Forces to counter threats posed by rocket, artillery, and mortar (RAM) munitions, air-to-surface missiles (ASM) and bombs, and uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), with attack aircraft and helicopters as secondary targets. The GBAD project is currently in the definition phase, following a competitive procurement process that concluded on January 12, 2024.

In another competitive procurement process for Phase 1 of the Counter-UAS Project, contracts totaling $46 million were awarded for acquiring and supporting dismounted and fixed-site systems. These include a $2 million contract to TRD Systems for ORION-H9 dismounted directional systems, a $19 million contract to CACI Inc. for CACI BEAM 3.0 omni-directional systems, and a $25 million contract to Leonardo UK Ltd. for Falcon Shield fixed-site systems.

The Soldier-Portable Air Defence (AD) Systems project adheres to Canada’s Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy, ensuring meaningful business activities and targeted investments to stimulate growth in the Canadian defense industry. These economic commitments are estimated to contribute $40 million annually to the Canadian GDP and sustain or create 350 empregos annually over six years.

Canada remains committed to supporting NATO, leading the multinational NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia, providing maritime support, offering advisory support to NATO Mission Iraq, and contributing personnel to the NATO-led peace support operation in Kosovo through Operation KOBOLD. In support of Ukraine, Operation UNIFIER, Canada’s military training and capacity-building mission, has trained approximately 40,000 members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) since 2015. Canada has committed over $9.5 billion in total assistance to Ukraine since February 2022, including $2.4 billion in military aid. It is actively negotiating long-term security commitments in alignment with the 2023 G7 Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine.

Post Image- Riga, Latvia (Image Credit: envatoelements by diegograndi)