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Canadian military needs armed drones: Gen. Vance

A fully armed MQ-9 Reaper taxis down an Afghanistan runway Nov. 4. The Reaper has flown 49 combat sorties since it first began operating in Afghanistan Sept. 25. It completed its first combat strike Oct. 27, when it fired a Hellfire missile over Deh Rawod, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

The Canadian Forces need armed drones, according to the chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance.

“If we are in operations against a force like ISIS, the surveillance piece is important, but we also want to contribute to the strike,” Vance told the Senate defence and security committee on Monday. “In my view, there’s little point in having a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) that can see a danger but can’t strike it if it needs to.”

Vance also told the senators that UAVs have the potential to enhance the military’s capability to patrol and monitor Canada’s territory, and assist in search-and-rescue missions.

The CAF actually deployed unarmed drones during the mission in Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, the Liberal government rekindled an earlier drone procurement program which was launched about a decade ago. Back then, the budget for the program was estimated to be $500 million.

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In January this year, a request for information (RFI) for the Joint Unmanned Surveillance and Tactical Acquisition Systems (JUSTAS) project was posted on the government’s Web site for procurement and tender notices. Public Services Procurement Canada said it is seeking feedback from defence contractors regarding long range, long endurance unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The request for RFI specified that the military was looking for a drove capable of delivering one Hellfire missile and two 133-kilohram bombs. The RFI closes in mid-April.

The price of the revised program is estimated at $3.2 billion.

The United States has used armed drones in attacks against militants in Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere.

The American’s use of armed drones has come under heavy fire from critics. There have been reports that some of the U.S. UAV hit civilian targets. There were also reports of drones crashing, as well as reports of drone pilots suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Canadian government and military need to develop a policy for the use of armed drones, as well as a legal framework which makes the government accountable for the use of the UAVs.

Vance said he is confident these issues will be discussed during the upcoming defence policy review.

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