QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC - The ongoing commitment of Canada's New Government to the safety of Canadian Forces members engaged in deployed operations was front and centre today when the Honourable Gordon O'Connor, Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Michael Fortier, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and General Rick Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff, confirmed plans to renew the Canadian Forces' tank capability.
To replace the Canadian Forces' 30-year old Leopard 1 tanks, the Government will purchase up to 100 Leopard 2 tanks, as well as securing the loan of 20 Leopard 2A6 tanks for use in Afghanistan this summer. The Leopard 2 tanks are newer, more heavily armoured and more technologically advanced than Canada's Leopard 1s. Their advanced features include significantly increased personnel protection against explosive devices and landmines, an ability to travel considerably faster in difficult terrain, more powerful engines, and stronger firing capabilities.
"Equipping Canada's soldiers with the best protection is my top priority. By immediately acquiring stronger and more heavily protected tanks, our soldiers in Afghanistan have the best equipment possible to offer them protection during this mission," said Minister O'Connor. "This government is committed to providing our Canadian Forces with the equipment they need to do the very demanding jobs we have asked of them."
Minister Fortier said: "This announcement demonstrates Canada's New Government's commitment to procure critical operational equipment as quickly as possible for the Canadian Forces, while getting the best value for Canadian taxpayers."
When examining the surplus tank option, Canada approached six allied nations to enquire about availability and thoroughly evaluated all formal proposals.
"Simply put, tanks help save lives and provide soldiers the right tools for the mission while enhancing their protection," said General Hillier. "In Afghanistan, Canada's Leopard 1 tanks have provided close direct fire support and mitigated the threat of mines and improvised explosive devices. This acquisition will further enhance the protection available to our soldiers."
The 100 Leopard 2 tanks will be purchased from the Netherlands for the long-term requirements of the Canadian Forces, and should be delivered to Canada soon after completion of the government-to-government agreement, anticipated by end of summer 2007. They will be upgraded in Canada to final Canadian Forces standards.
The 20 combat-ready Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks will be loaned by Germany for short-term requirements and will be deployed to Afghanistan this summer with the next rotation of Canadian troops. In addition to being newer, more heavily protected and more technologically advanced, the Leopard 2A6s will generate significantly less heat than the hydraulic systems of Canada's 30-year-old Leopard 1 fleet.
The Leopard 1 tanks were first deployed in Afghanistan fall 2006 to meet new operational requirements of the Canadian Forces.
Source: Protection the top priority with tank acquisition
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