Purchase of robotic mine-hunting system for Canadian navy faces delays with focus on support for Ukraine

Canadian military and government procurement specialists have been focused for several months on buying equipment for Ukraine’s armed forces.

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A project to buy robotic mine-hunting equipment for the Royal Canadian Navy is being delayed partly because the Canadian military is focused on getting equipment for Ukraine.

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Two of the robotic systems to detect and dispose of sea mines and other underwater explosive devices were to be purchased for the navy and delivered by the end of this year as part of a $35-million project.

But industry officials told this newspaper the project has been delayed because of what they allege to be bungling by procurement officials on what should have been a relatively straightforward purchase.

Department of National Defence officials confirm the project has been delayed. But, in its statement to this newspaper, DND noted the delays were prompted by the need for more discussions with industry and because of “the refocusing of internal resources on urgent priority equipment donations for Ukraine. DND leadership is taking all steps to carefully review this project as part of our normal project planning procedures, and all efforts are being made to complete this review prior to the end of this calendar year.”

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DND officials say no other projects are being delayed because of Ukraine equipment purchases. The department notes the equipment is still expected to be in use by the navy by November 2024, as scheduled.

The additional discussions with industry were required to ensure the procurement would be fair and transparent, the department added in its statement.

The Remote Mine-hunting and Disposal Systems, or RMDS, will be used mainly on the navy’s Kingston-class vessels. Work on the procurement started in 2017, when military officials went to industry with initial questions on what capabilities companies could provide.

Bids were requested in June 2021 and were submitted.

Canadian military and government procurement specialists have been focused for several months on buying equipment for Ukraine’s armed forces.

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Canada is spending $500 million on new gear for Ukraine’s military, which has been battling Russian forces. On June 30, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would provide Ukraine with 39 armoured vehicles that had originally been earmarked for the Canadian Army.

Canada is also in discussions with South Korea to purchase 100,000 artillery shells for Ukraine in a deal that could cost Canadian taxpayers several hundred million dollars. It has already spent $98 million to buy 20,000 similar artillery rounds from the United States for Ukraine. In addition, the Liberal government has provided Ukraine with Canadian Forces M777 artillery guns.

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Besides artillery, Canada has shipped Carl Gustaf anti-tank systems, grenades and drone cameras to Ukraine. In February, it also sent a shipment that included .50-calibre sniper rifles equipped with silencers, 60-millimetre mortars, grenade launchers, pistols, ammunition, thermal-imaging binoculars, cameras, scopes and medical supplies. The equipment was enough to equip a force of between 500 and 600 personnel. The shipment also included C6 and C9 machine guns, which are used by the Canadian Forces.

Retired chief of the defence staff Gen. Rick Hillier has called on the Canadian military to give up about half of its armoured vehicles and all of its remaining artillery to Ukraine as part of Canada’s efforts to arm that nation.

The Canadian Forces has rejected Hillier’s plan. DND officials privately say the retired general’s plan would significantly harm Canada’s security.

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