By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

Defence Watch has confirmed that the proposed purchase of Force Mobility Enhancement (FME) vehicles is still a priority for the Canadian Army.

There was some question about the status of the project in the wake of a Jan. 15 letter sent by Public Works to the defence industry regarding the army’s vehicle programs.

That letter, sent by Public Works and Government Services official Kristen Ward, and obtained by Defence Watch, noted that the LAV-3 upgrade and tactical armored patrol vehicle (TAPV) project “are considered priorities in ensuring renewal of core capabilities.”

“These two projects are proceeding as scheduled,” wrote Ward, Supply Team Leader Close Combat Vehicle Project. “The Close Combat Vehicle project, however, has been delayed to ensure that resources are geared toward key procurement priorities of DND.”

Ward’s letter raised concerns in some areas of the defence community since it made no mention of the  purchase of Force Mobility Enhancement vehicles, a fleet of armored engineer vehicles to support Canada’s Leopard 2 tanks.

But Defence Department spokeswoman Annie Dicaire confirmed that FME is still considered a priority. “The FME project will be implemented in two phases,” Dicaire told Defence Watch. “The first phase includes the acquisition of Armoured Engineer Vehicles (AEV) and Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARV), while the second phase will be to procure tactical mobility implements, including dozer blades, mine ploughs, and mine rollers.”

“For Phase I, a letter of interest was issued in July 2009 to assess the level of interest from industry,” she added. “A draft request for proposal (RFP) for the acquisition of AEVs will be issued in the spring of 2010, followed by a revised, final RFP in the fall 2010.”

But the Close Combat Vehicle or CCV appears now to be on hold with no new timelines for it to proceed. Some defence observers believe the project will eventually be cancelled or simply remain in limbo.

The Harper government has already selected General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, the builder of the LAV-3, as the prime contractor and systems integrator for the upgrade program. The project will upgrade 550 vehicles. There is also an option for upgrades to an additional 80.

Ken Yamashita, the company’s manager of corporate affairs told Defence Watch that GDLS Canada is currently awaiting government approval to move to the definition phase of the program. The precise elements of the upgrade will be defined during the definition phase, he added.

Army commander Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie has said the army wants the LAVs equipped with larger engines and more protection.

General Dynamics Land Systems Canada has already developed a light armoured vehicle technology demonstrator with an improved engine and drive train as well as more robust suspension. Those improvements on what it called the LAV-H would allow the vehicles to carry more weight, including armour if needed.

The tactical armored patrol vehicle would replace the army’s existing fleet of RG-31 mine protected vehicles and the Coyote wheeled light armored vehicles. Besides the initial procurement of 500 vehicles, there is an option for an additional 100. The TAPV will be delivered in two variants, a reconnaissance vehicle and a general utility variant.


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