By David Pugliese
Published Jan. 2, 2009
The Canadian Forces is looking to spend at least $50 million on a new radar to warn troops about incoming rockets and mortar bombs.
The new program follows an earlier attempt which saw $33 million spent to lease a similar system but that project produced mixed results.
This time around the army is looking for a radar that has a range of up to 30 kilometres and can be quickly set up by several soldiers.
For its 2003-2004 Afghanistan mission, the Canadian military had leased a radar, dubbed Arthur, from Sweden but soldiers complained it had mis-identified friendly aircraft and electrical power lines as incoming enemy rockets. Out of 3,200 incidents the radar identified as enemy fire, only two could be confirmed as real, according to a report filed by Canadian military personnel.
At the time the army shelved plans to purchase what were known as counter-bombardment radars, citing the concern the technology was not developed enough to make their use practical. It decided to wait until the U.S. military figured out what it would do in terms of such technology.
But now the Canadian army has revived its plan to purchase such radars. A contract for a new system is expected sometime in 2010 but it is unclear whether the equipment would be delivered in time to protect Canadian troops in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated that Canada will withdraw the bulk of its troops from Afghanistan in 2011.
Afghan insurgents have fired Chinese-made rockets at Canadian soldiers as well as mortar rounds and home-made rockets.
The new system would not only warn that a warhead was incoming but it could determine the location from where it was fired from.
The Citizen asked the Defence Department in November for comment on the radar project but received no response. It is now common practice at the department not to respond to questions about how money is being spent on equipment.
Defence insiders, however, say the army wants up to 10 radars.
Several firms with Ottawa-based offices are expected to bid on the project.
Lockheed Martin officials say they will offer Canada its EQ-36, a new radar system now being developed for the U.S. army.
Mark Starr, Lockheed’s vice president of radar programs, said Canada has requested information on the radar, which can detect and locate mortar, artillery and rocket fire. “We’re very interested in making our system available to the Canadian Army,” he added.
Raytheon Canada intends to offer its improved Sentinel radar which can detect rockets and mortar rounds and other aerial threats at longer ranges.
Luc Petit, business development manager at Raytheon Canadian, pointed out that the Sentinel is being used in Iraq by the U.S. army and is also being used by the British military. Mr. Petit noted that Raytheon can also offer a land-based gun system than can be integrated with the radar and used to destroy incoming warheads.
Gary Hollink, president of Saab International Canada, said the firm will offer the army an advanced version of its Giraffe radar which can provide 360 degree detection and tracking of incoming warheads. Mr. Hollink noted that the Canadian navy already uses a version of the radar on its Halifax-class frigates.
He said the army could install a Giraffe at Kandahar airfield and “provide coverage and surveillance to a very significant range.”
In 2006 Saab acquired the company which built Arthur, the artillery and rocket detection radar used by Canada earlier in Afghanistan.
Despite the ongoing problems with that system the army concluded that Arthur did provide “a psychological morale booster for soldiers living in camp” since the troops knew that a radar was available to warn against incoming warheads.
For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news go to the Ottawa Citizen and David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at: