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Fortifying Canadian Forces: Enhancing Defence Capabilities in Latvia

SAAB RBS 70 NG short-range Air Defence System. Image source: https://news.cision.com/saab/i/rbs-70-ng,c3268300

SAAB RBS 70 NG short-range Air Defence System. Image source: https://news.cision.com/saab/i/rbs-70-ng,c3268300

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, unveiled plans to bolster the defensive capabilities of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members stationed in Latvia. These enhancements, set to be swiftly integrated, mark a crucial move in augmenting the defensive prowess of the Canadian contingent within NATO’s Canada-led Battle Group stationed in Latvia.

The foremost initiative entails a substantial investment of $227.5 million into acquiring a new Air Defence capability. Through collaborative efforts with Saab Canada Inc., Canada has secured contracts for the procurement of the RBS 70 NG short-range Air Defence System. This cutting-edge system is poised to furnish tactical air defence protection to Canadian troops, empowering them to thwart potential threats posed by fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, as well as small and large Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS).

“We are pleased to deliver our proven and efficient air defence solution RBS 70 NG, which is a critical capability for nations in the current environment”, said Saab’s President and CEO Micael Johansson.

This strategic investment heralds the revival of Canada’s Air Defence capability, a domain left unattended since 2012, with initial deliveries anticipated later this year.

Additionally, Canada is committing $46 million towards acquiring advanced counter-drone equipment. This initiative seeks to furnish CAF members deployed on Operation REASSURANCE with enhanced safeguards against hostile Class 1 UAS (small drones), encompassing detection, identification, tracking, and neutralization capabilities. Anticipated to attain initial operational capability later this year, the project encompasses the provision of comprehensive counter-UAS systems, command and control infrastructure, sensors, non-kinetic effectors, as well as requisite in-service support and training.

Minister Blair underscored the significance of these acquisitions during his sojourn to Brussels, Belgium, where he convened with NATO Defence Ministers. Emphasizing the pivotal role of these capabilities in augmenting NATO’s deterrence posture, Minister Blair spotlighted Canada’s leadership in spearheading NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia. With Canada poised to augment its military presence on Operation REASSURANCE, scaling up from the current 1,000 troops to a persistent deployment of up to 2,200 troops by 2026, Minister Blair reiterated Canada’s steadfast commitment outlined in the July 2023 Roadmap.

“Canada’s support for the NATO Alliance is steadfast. By investing in Air Defence and anti-drone capabilities for Canadian troops, we are also bolstering the defensive capabilities of the NATO Battle Group in Latvia as a whole. Through our leadership of the Battle Group in Latvia and our many other contributions to NATO – including our current participation in Exercise Steadfast Defender – Canada will continue to work with our Allies to strengthen Euro-Atlantic security,” expressed the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence.

This announcement follows Minister Blair’s earlier declaration during his December 2023 visit to Latvia, where he unveiled plans for the deployment of Royal Canadian Air Force helicopters to the Battle Group, slated to commence this summer. Additionally, Minister Blair accentuated Canada’s recent deployment of a Canadian Army Tank Squadron comprising 15 Leopard 2A4M tanks to Latvia, further underscoring Canada’s unwavering support for NATO initiatives.

Against the backdrop of the NATO Exercise Steadfast Defender 2024, wherein approximately 1,000 CAF personnel, including sailors, soldiers, aviators, and special forces members, are actively participating alongside the Canadian warship HMCS Charlottetown, Minister Blair reiterated Canada’s commitment to reinforcing Euro-Atlantic security. Notably, during the visit, Minister Blair, alongside his Czech counterpart, Defence Minister Jana Černochová, formalized a Canada-Czechia Defence Cooperation memorandum of understanding (MOU). This landmark agreement lays the groundwork for collaborative efforts between Canada and Czechia in areas spanning bilateral and multilateral training, military education, defence research and technology, and mutual logistics research, fostering closer bilateral ties and bolstering support for Ukraine.

Amid the prevailing geopolitical landscape, Canada remains steadfast in its collaborative endeavors with NATO Allies and international partners, exemplifying its commitment to fortifying collective defence and resilience within the Alliance.

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