U.S. soldiers take cover as a CH-47 Chinook helicopter takes off, in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Sunday, June 18, 2006. ((Rodrigo Abd/ Associated Press))

Ottawa will spend $4.7 billionto purchase and maintain 16 new military helicopters, the defence minister said Wednesday.

The amount is part of $15 billion being announced this week for new equipment for the Canadian Forces.Of the$4.7 billion, $2 billionwill cover the purchase of the helicopters and the rest will go toward their maintenance for about 20 years.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said in Edmonton thatthe helicopters will reduce the risk to troops having to travel by land through explosive-laden terrain in war zones like Afghanistan.

Although the government will put a contract out for tender, Ottawa is expected to go with the American-made Chinook, known as a heavy-lift helicopter.

The Chinookis considered very versatile and can carry up to 44 soldiers and equipment over significant distances.

The helicoptercan be used for a number of missions, including search and rescue operations,medical evacuations and parachute drops.

This isthe third consecutive day that O'Connor has announced defence spending.

On Tuesday, he promised the military 2,300 new high-tech logistics trucks at a cost of $1.2-billion.

In Halifax on Monday, O'Connor announced a $2.1-billion plan to build three navy supply ships.