An Ottawa company has landed a $1.25-billion contract to replace the army's fleet of armoured patrol vehicles, federal officials announced at a military base in New Brunswick Friday afternoon.
Textron Systems Canada Inc. will supply 500 vehicles to the Canadian Forces, with the option for another 100, said Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, the Conservative MP for Fredericton, and Julian Fantino, the associate minister of national defence.
The first tactical vehicles are expected to be delivered in 2014, they told the crowd gathered at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in Oromocto.
The fleet is scheduled to be fully operational in 2016.
The federal government says jobs will be created across Canada for skilled workers to build the patrol vehicles.
Improved protection for soldiers
The Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle (TAPV) is an updated model of the one Textron's parent company currently produces for the American military.
The TAPV is specifically designed to protect soldiers from land mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) — major causes of death for Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.
'It has sustained 10 kilograms of explosive under the wheels and eight under the hull. So it makes it extremely resilient to IEDs.' —Major Carl Gendron
Fantino believes the upgraded vehicles will give soldiers a greater sense of security.
"We have learned many lessons through our combat operations in Afghanistan, one of which being the importance of armoured vehicles in protecting our soldiers from today's threats in operations," he said.
Major Carl Gendron, one of the experts who evaluated the four competing bids for the contract, said the TAPV is a tough vehicle.
"It has sustained 10 kilograms of explosive under the wheels and eight under the hull. So it makes it extremely resilient to IEDs," said Gendron.
The TAPV, which has a weapon system that's controlled from inside the vehicle, will replace the Coyote reconnaissance vehicles and an armoured vehicle called the RG-31.
Of the 500, about 200 will be used as reconnaissance vehicles, while the remainder will be personnel carriers.
The TAPV can, however, be reconfigured for various roles, said Brigadier-General Chris Thurrott.
"One of the interesting things about this contract are the packages that have been put in place to allow for replacements, to allow for adjustments," he said.
"So what you have is a pool of specialist equipment, some which is already prepared for vehicles for specific roles and other ones that will allow us to adjust."
New Brunswick company loses bid
Dieppe's Malley Industries was one of four other bidders who were beat out by Textron Systems Canada.
Malley had partnered with a U.S. firm, Force Protection, to bid on a $1-billion contract to build 750 armoured military vehicles for the Department of National Defence.
Force Protection designed the patrol vehicles, while Malley hoped to assemble them.
"It's one of those things," said Steen Gunderson, general manager of Malley Industries. "We're looking for the region to grow. We're looking for sectors such as this to grow, and today, unfortunately, is a sad day."
The company said winning that contract would have meant 120 new jobs and as many as 500 others through spinoff work.
"Support industries, supply chain industries would have seen significant benefits," he said.
Malley Industries congratulated Textron on its success. Gunderson said Malley's involvement in the bid was a positive experience because they were able to make connections with a number of big companies such as Lockheed Martin and Elbit.
"We've got some alliances there that we put a lot of sweat and time into these things, and I think these relationships will grow as well."