OTTAWA, June 4 (UPI) -- Canada is spending more on training its troops to deal with improvised explosive devices, which are blamed for many Canadian casualties in Afghanistan.
At least 158 Canadian personnel have died and scores have been wounded in the conflict, many of them by IEDs, since Canada became involved in the NATO-led operations in Afghanistan. The fatalities are the highest in any single Canadian military mission since the Korean War.
Canada withdrew its combat forces last year but maintains more than 900 personnel, most of them for training Afghan armed forces.
Other than shooting incidents, some involving Afghans being trained by NATO forces, IEDs pose the biggest threat to Western troops deployed in the country.
A series of training simulations ordered by the Canadian Department of National Defense will prepare soldiers to better handle systems that counter the enemy bombs in roads and paths used by the allied military vehicles.
The interactive three-dimensional software and related computer-based enable soldiers to work in virtual environment and get used to conditions in warfare.
The Virtual Task Trainers from Vancouver defense provider NGRAIN will aim to teach maintenance skills for Expedient Route Operating Capability vehicles and Electronic Counter Measures devices. Both EROC and ECM are being used in the continuing operations in Afghanistan.
The simulations bought under the new contracts will deal with maintenance issues faced by troops using heavy vehicles that are essentially built to survive IED explosions.
The vehicle's current configuration, however, makes removing components for repair difficult.
The Buffalo IED clearance vehicle will receive Power Pack Removal and Transfer Case virtual trainers that will be used to train combat engineer units, officials said.
The Husky mine detection vehicle is equipped with ground penetration radar that is difficult to remove and install, NGRAIN said. A GPR virtual task trainer for the Husky will provide systems overviews, animations, and interactive models for virtual maintenance practice, the company said.
Officials said delivery of the Buffalo power pack trainer is expected this year and other virtual trainers will likely be delivered early next year. The value of the contracts wasn't revealed.
The vehicle trainers are the latest of virtual task trainers supplied to the Canadian armed forces by NGRAIN. Virtual maintenance trainers for the Portable Counter Measures and vehicle-mounted Mobile Counter Measures IED radio jammers will be used both at training centers and in the field.
The Air Brakes System Virtual Task Trainer will be used to prepare defense operators to train operators on the 31 steps necessary to safely operate an air brakes-equipped vehicle.
Canada's participation in the Afghanistan conflict remains controversial, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper facing new questions over the continuing spending and plans for returning the troops home.
Canada has spent more than $14 billion on its various roles in Afghanistan. The government is facing fresh criticism over its failure to clearly state its plans to end the Canadian involvement in the war and return the 900 military training personnel to Canada.