OTTAWA, June 11 (UPI) -- Canada is set to spend more than $600 million on upgrades to its armored and heavy vehicle fleets in response to recent engagement in Afghanistan but the delivery of most of the order is unlikely to be completed before the last Canadian troops leave the Asian country.
Textron Systems Canada Inc., a Textron Inc. company, announced it was selected by the Canadian government for the Canadian Forces Tactical Armored Patrol Vehicle program.
The contract provides that the Textron TAPV Team, led by Textron Systems Canada, together with Textron Marine and Land Systems and Rheinmetall Canada, will manufacture 500 vehicles, with an option for up to 100 more.
The first vehicle is to be delivered to the Canadian army in July 2014 and the last delivery is scheduled for March 2016.
Canada's Treasury Board has budgeted about $1.25 billion for acquisitions designed to upgrade the armor fleet and provide for 25 years of support. The Textron contract is the first major purchase under that program.
Canada pulled out of combat operations in Afghanistan last year but retains a heavily armed presence for training Afghan security personnel. Both the Canadian drawdown and continued presence in Afghanistan have sparked controversy from critics of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.
The Canadian armor upgrades are part of a $5 billion program, unveiled in 2008, that aims to combine several different acquisition programs. Since the first news of the acquisition Canada has added more purchases to the list.
Critics say the armor refurbishment is well in excess of Canadian military needs, while supporters say Canada needs everything in the program to perform its peacekeeping roles as part of the U.N. missions across the world.
The Department of National Defense announced in 2008 its intention to combine three programs into one general set of upgrades to its armored vehicle fleets.
The combined program includes "close combat vehicles" that perform as tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles or Armored Personnel Carriers, alongside Canada's new Leopard 2A6 tanks.
The wheeled LAV-IIIs showed limitations during the Canadian military operations in Afghanistan and keeping them in the field requires a lot of maintenance, Defense Industry News said on its Web site.
Canada's M113 tracked armored personnel carriers have been used successfully as a supplement but the Canadian military appears to be leaning toward a heavier vehicle for their future close combat operations.
There is also support for a "tactical armored patrol vehicle" that would be similar to the blast-resistant vehicles bought and deployed by other NATO member countries.
Plans also exist for upgrades to Canada's existing LAV-III wheeled armored personnel carrier fleet and the acquisition of dedicated armored engineering vehicles based on the Leopard 2 tank, and engineering-related attachments for Canada's new Leopard 2 tanks.