On Thursday, September 13th, Rideau Institute President Steven Staples appeared on CBC TV to respond to a Canadian Forces announcement about the replacement of the military’s aging fleet of tanks with Leopard 2A4s.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay was enthusiastic in his celebration of the arrival of what he characterized as Canada’s “new generation fleet“. Although they were acquired during the thick of war in Afghanistan, with the mission winding down it appears that they will primarily be used for training purposes. From the official news release:
A total of 42 Leopard 2A4 Canadian tanks will be delivered to the Army by the end of 2013, with the first five currently serving at the Armour School at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown. These five Leopard 2A4 Canadian tanks have already been integrated into training and are playing a key role in preparing armoured soldiers and officers for the challenges of the future.
It is worth emphasizing that this is far from a “new” announcement. The purchase of tanks dates back to 2007, when the Department of National Defence announced Canada’s intention to acquire the hardware. The initial cost estimate was $650 million, but the addition of a 20-year service contract doubled that figure, bringing the total cost up to $1.3 billion (“Cost of battle tanks double initial estimate, O’Connor reveals,” Canadian Press, 18 May 2007). Canada is currently slated to receive 100 of these “slightly used” (i.e. refurbished) Leopards from the Netherlands.
However, these tanks hardly represent a “new generation” of technology. The Leopard family of tanks were first manufactured in the 1970s, and the 2A4 edition was first rolled out between 1985-1992.