Canada builds up arctic region defenses

June 26, 2012 at 5:41 PM
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OTTAWA, June 26 (UPI) -- Canada is building up arctic defenses as part of its long-term program of projecting Canadian presence in a region increasingly claimed by competing powers.

Effects, including melting ice, of global climate change on the Arctic Ocean and Arctic Circle have raised possibilities the region may open up to maritime navigation and competing naval operations by Canada and neighbors in Europe.

The buildup will likely increase the deployment of advanced craft, including stealth snowmobiles and the unmanned aerial vehicles, reported.

An increasing number of aviation and defense industries are joining the competition to win Canadian military contracts for a range of equipment aimed at increasing Canada's capability in the arctic region.

Canada conducted military exercises in Norway earlier this year to test its capability in severe weather conditions and will follow up with training exercises on its own territory.

A new arctic training base will push the military exercises forward and is part of a plan that includes acquisitions of new patrol craft and a Polar class icebreaker. The all-terrain vehicles will form a new fleet expected to cost $2.92 billion. The current estimates for the icebreaker exceed $680 million.

Northrop Grumman is in line to try and sell a fleet of Global Hawk UAVs capable of patrolling the arctic region.

Amid continuing controversy over Canadian plans for the purchase of multiples of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is treading cautiously over the arctic defense program.

At the same time, however, Harper's government is keen to project Canadian sovereignty over arctic territories designated as part of Canada.

General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada and ST Kinetics, a Singapore firm, also have their eye on the Army project and have joined forces to promote the Bronco New-Generation Marginal Terrain Vehicle, said.

Arktos Developments, an amphibious craft manufacturer from Surrey, British Columbia, is aiming to market its amphibious craft to operate in tandem with the patrol boats and the planned icebreaker.

Other plans for Canada's arctic defense include a stealth snowmobile with a hybrid gas-electric engine.

Harper first unveiled his arctic military development program in 2007, when he said, "Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic; we either use it or lose it."

He said exploration of the arctic energy and mineral resources was critical to Canada's growth. A 500-member force will be focused on defense of the arctic and assertion of Canadian sovereignty.

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