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Defence Minister Peter MacKay addresses an audience of military personnel at CFB Gagetown in Oromocto, N.B., on July 8, 2009. MacKay announced that the federal government is spending $5-billion to upgrade the Canadian army's combat vehicles, including the LAV-3s that are now in service in Afghanistan.


The federal government is spending more than $5-billion to upgrade the Canadian army's combat vehicles, including improvements for its existing light armoured vehicle fleet.

At an announcement Wednesday at CFB Gagetown, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said about $1-billion will be spent to upgrade the LAV-3s that are now in service in Afghanistan.

The government is also buying close combat vehicles, tactical armoured patrol vehicles and force mobility enhancement vehicles.

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"Our government is committed to providing the army with the modern robust equipment it needs to fulfil its missions in today's dangerous operating environment," Mr. MacKay said.

"Wherever in the world Canadian soldiers find themselves, we owe it to them to give them the protective equipment that they need to do the job we've asked them to do."

The LAV-3s have been the army's principle fighting vehicle in Afghanistan, but have taken a beating, with many in need of a major overhaul by the time the combat mission ends in 2011.

General Dynamics Land Systems Canada will be the prime contractor on the LAV upgrade.

Tom de Faye, the company's director of marketing and business development, said recent missions have taught them a great deal.

"With this upgrade program, we'll now be able to take the lessons learned from the deployment of LAV-3s in Afghanistan and the Strykers in Iraq, with over 40 million kilometres of combat experience," he said.

He said the end product will be a much more capable and better protected vehicle, ready to take on the threats and challenges of current and future battlefields.

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"This is a significant day for the army," said Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, chief of land staff. "Actually, it's a great day for the army."

Addressing more than 300 soldiers gathered in the LAV barn for the announcement, Gen. Leslie said the next generation of land combat vehicles gives the army the flexibility it needs.

"These vehicles will provide the army with the modern and robust equipment needed to fulfill its role in today's increasingly dangerous operating environment," he said.

"They will also ensure that we are ready to take on the challenges of the future."

The money will be spent to upgrade 550 LAV-3s, with an option to upgrade another 80.

The military is purchasing 108 close combat vehicles - or mini-tank for battle escort - with an option to buy 30 more, and 500 tactical armoured patrol vehicles, with an option for 100 more.

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They will also get 13 armoured engineer vehicles with an option for another five.

"We're going to make things better, harder, faster, better able to survive, to give you the fighting chance you need to get the job done, and come home," Gen. Leslie said.

Mr. MacKay said the announcement is part of the government's Canada First Defence Strategy and the purchases will create jobs in both the manufacturing and maintenance of the vehicles.

"Industrial and regional benefits will be a requirement for all four projects," he said.

"Under our industrial and regional benefits policy, winning contractors from outside the country must spend an equivalent amount - dollar for dollar - on the contract value here in Canada."

Mr. de Faye said the project to upgrade the LAVs will mean work for his company's plants in London, Ont., and Edmonton and 400 suppliers across the country.

Contracts are expected to be awarded for 2011 and the military will start using the new vehicles by 2012.

The government says it expects the entire fleet to be fully operational by 2015.

Mr. MacKay said similar announcements are coming for both the air force and the navy.

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