It’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally getting to the point where military helicopters are part of the national security apparatus.
At a time when many of the programs and services in the federal government are being slashed, the military has stepped up its efforts to create new opportunities for Canadians.
In a briefing this week, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said that the military is currently looking at options for an unmanned, highly-controllable helicopter that can fly at a distance of up to 20 kilometres, which would be capable of conducting air strikes.
This would allow for more rapid, targeted air attacks, Sajjian said, which he hopes will ultimately improve the nation’s defence posture.
“What the government is focused on now is moving to have the military fully integrated with the national defence and national security infrastructure, and not having to rely on the private sector, or other private companies,” he said.
“We’re trying to get into the habit of being more integrated into the national defense and national defence infrastructure, not only with the air force, but with the intelligence and defence services.”
The federal government is in the midst of developing a new military helicopter called the C-130J Hercules, which will replace the aging C-17 Globemaster.
Sajja said the Hercules will be able to fly at low altitudes, which is where it is now.
“It will be a small aircraft that will be capable to operate in the low-altitude airspace and to do that at low cost,” Sajju said.
The U-62 Blackhawk and the C130J are two of the most advanced military helicopters in the world, but they’re both very expensive. “
The Hercules will also be able, once it’s delivered to Canada, to be able fly out of the U.S. Air Force Base in Fort Benning, Georgia, which houses a major airbase for the U-2 spy plane.”
The U-62 Blackhawk and the C130J are two of the most advanced military helicopters in the world, but they’re both very expensive.
A Canadian government report released in 2016 estimates that the cost of building the C172 is about $4 billion.
In 2017, the Canadian military also purchased a new, larger helicopter, the C146, which has a top speed of just 65 kilometres per hour.
In its latest budget, the federal cabinet also announced that it’s going to spend $15.6 billion on new equipment, including an aircraft-mounted laser weapon system, which could be mounted on a drone.
“We’re in a transition period right now,” Sjjan said.
In addition to cutting the military’s costs, Sjajian said the government wants to make it easier for Canadians to get involved in the development of the new helicopters.
“I think it’s important that Canadians have the opportunity to get to know these new technologies, to get their hands on these new aircraft and get their feet wet with these technologies,” he told CBC News.
The government is also looking at how to improve the way the military communicates with the public and how to make the program more transparent.
“What we’re really focused on is getting the national media involved and the public to understand that we’re investing in the military, that we want to protect the nation, that it is not just a military thing, but it’s also an institution of national defence, and that we have to be open about that,” Sijjan said, adding that the government will be looking at ways to increase transparency with the media.
“A lot of the time when we’re going through this transition period, we’ve got to have transparency, because if we don’t have transparency now, the public will not have confidence in our ability to do the job that we need to do.”