The Canadian government plans to add helicopters for airlift capacity and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets.

The measures were announced Aug. 5 by Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Peter Gordon MacKay, and Christian Paradis, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada and Secretary of State for Agriculture.

“This announcement is yet another example of how this government is providing the men and women of the Canadian Forces the tools and equipment they need to do the jobs asked of them,” MacKay said. “Ultimately, these capabilities coupled with other key acquisitions by this government will be invaluable to our military leaders in the protection of Canadian interests in our sovereign territory and abroad. For years, our Canadian Forces have been in the unfortunate position of not having an option other than hitching rides with allies in order to move personnel in countries like Afghanistan. Those days are over.”

Coupled with the acquisition of C-17 strategic lift, Hercules tactical lift and Chinook F medium-to-heavy-lift helicopters, the acquisition of Chinook D commercial charter helicopters and UAVs will help ensure that the Canadian Forces have the air assets necessary to undertake any mission required.

The Canada First Defence Strategy set out the types of missions Canadians expect their forces to undertake, the government said in a statement. These capabilities would ensure that Canada is able to play a leadership role abroad and make a meaningful contribution to international security while also protecting the nation’s national sovereignty.

Paradis said, “By actively procuring helicopters and UAVs to be available within stringent timelines, we are helping to support urgent operational requirements in Afghanistan, while providing best value for Canadian taxpayers.”

Additional helicopter lift capacity and more UAVs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance were conditions set out in the March 13 parliamentary motion to extend Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan until 2011.

Obtaining these additional air resources was also one of the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan.

“The addition of these resources will provide greater safety and security to our troops in Afghanistan, with UAVs acting as the eyes in the skies for commanders” said Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk. “The helicopters will allow commanders the flexibility to reduce ground-based resupply convoys and more easily reach remote locations in challenging environments where they could be at risk of ambushes, land mines and improvised explosive devices.”

Canada will lease of six commercial helicopters to address immediate needs. The one-year contract will be valued at up to about $34 million, depending on flight hours logged, with renewable one-year options available.

The government will buy six used Chinook D helicopters–already in theater–from the U.S. government, under Foreign Military Sales. These will be available for operations by February 2009. The cost for the equipment acquisition, plus initial logistics support, training and project management costs will not exceed $273 million. These figures are currently being finalized by the two governments.

Separately, Canada has begun a process to provide Canadian Forces with their own medium-to heavy-lift helicopters. The government in March issued a request for proposal to Boeing [BA] to acquire 16 Chinook F models. The delivery of the Canadian Chinook F-model is expected in 2012 with initial operations commencing in 2013.

The government will also procure a small Scan Eagle UAV to address immediate needs in Afghanistan over the next nine months. The contract to Boeing is valued at up to approximately $13 million, depending on flight hours logged.

The government will also procure a two-year lease of a Heron UAV tactical system that will be delivered by early 2009. MacDonald Dettwiler Associates (MDA) of Vancouver, B.C., Aug. 1 was awarded the two-year, $95 million contract.

A long-term UAV solution currently is being developed that will include domestic and deployed operational UAV capabilities.

The additional helicopters and UAVs for Afghanistan will require as many as 250 personnel to support and operate the equipment.

Beyond Afghanistan, a long term UAV solution–the Joint UAV Surveillance Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) program– is currently being developed that will include domestic and deployed operational UAV capabilities.