CANBERRA, Australia, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Canada will loan Australia three armored vehicles for use by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan for additional protection against improvised explosive devices.
The vehicles are two Husky protected mobility vehicles fitted with ground-penetrating radar and one Buffalo mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle fitted with an interrogation arm and mast-mounted Gyrocam Systems camera.
The vehicles will be used by Australian army engineers, who are creating safe pathways for troops as they patrol Uruzgan province in Afghanistan.
The vehicles will be on loan for around 12 months from 2012. Work is under way to assess the possible acquisition of a permanent system.
Canadian soldiers in Kandahar have been using the vehicles, which will be handed over following their drawdown to be completed by the end of the year.
The arrangement was announced by Australian Minister for Defense Stephen Smith during a news conference in Canberra with Canadian Minister of National Defense Peter MacKay.
The Huskys' radar can detect explosive hazard threats from within the armored vehicle and can detect IEDs that other detection equipment might not be able to find, especially devices with low or no metal content.
The Buffalo's interrogation arm allows troops sitting in the vehicle to confirm manually a suspected IED. Currently, sappers must leave the vehicle to physically examine a suspected IED.
The Buffalo's high-definition Gyrocam camera is mounted on a mast 25-35 feet above the vehicle to give a 360-degree view of the terrain. It has thermal imagery capability and high-quality zoom ability to detect potential IEDs from a distance.
During the news conference, Smith said he and MacKay agreed to annual formal Australia-Canada ministerial bilateral meetings.
"We will also have meetings of our Chiefs of Defense forces on an annual basis and meetings of our defense officials at Deputy Secretary level, also on an annual basis," Smith said.
"These won't necessarily take place in Canada or Australia but may well take place on the margins of regional or multilateral forums which we attend. We've also agreed that we will have a strategic dialogue on some of the key procurement, acquisition, capability and budget reform issues that both of us share."
MacKay reiterated that Canada is committed to buying 65 Joint Strike Fighters.
"We're not looking at backing away from our commitment to purchase and procure the Joint Strike Fighter," he said. "Having said that, we share all of the concerns that have been expressed by Minister Smith and others, including our predecessor minister in the United States, Bob Gates."
MacKay said Lockheed Martin officials in Texas told him that "the model of Joint Strike Fighter we are purchasing is moving forward on time and on target in terms of its costs."
Canada's fleet of F18s will be taken out of use around 2017.
"So there is a degree of urgency for us when it comes to this procurement being on time and being on cost," MacKay said.
Smith said Australia also is committed to buying the Joint Strike Fighters.
"The (Australian) Defense Capability Plan talks in terms of ultimately up to or around 100 but we've committed to 14. Any more than that, we'll make on a deliberative basis," he said.
Smith so said Australia is watching for delays in delivery of the aircraft.
"I've made the point before, we are very concerned about rubbing up against our schedule," he said.
"So we'll do an exhaustive risk assessment next year and make a judgment about whether we need any transition capability and the obvious possibility -- we've made no decision on this -- is for more Super Hornets."