The Canadian Armed Forces learn from the war in Ukraine
The war in Ukraine identified critical gaps in the Canadian Army’s ability to fight and survive on the battlefield, leading to an unforeseen rush to purchase new military equipment.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, the Commander of the Canadian Army, Lt. Gen. Joe Paul said this includes anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles as well as drone protection systems.
The military also hopes to purchase the kinds of long-range precision missile systems that have given Ukrainian forces a distinct advantage over their Russian enemies, as well as state-of-the-art command and control technology.
« It’s the abilities that make the difference right now in Ukraine, » Paul said. « We’ve been paying a lot of attention to that at the moment. »
The new weapons systems the military is rushing to buy were not in the Liberal government’s defense policy when it was released five years ago.
But Paul said the Canadian Armed Forces have been studying the fighting in Ukraine since Russia invaded in February, sparking the biggest war in Europe in generations.
As a result, the military has identified gaps in its equipment, including the need for weapons to defend against traditional threats like tanks and Γüá planes– and new threats such as drones.
« I’m moving forward on these three programs to meet my really immediate needs, » Paul said.
Not all shortcomings come as a complete surprise. For example, the Army has repeatedly warned that it needs weapons and other defenses to protect Canadian troops from air attack. But although there have been plans to buy a new system for years, not much has happened.
There is now a sense of urgency, especially as the military prepares to send hundreds more troops to Latvia to reinforce a Canadian-led NATO battlegroup designed to help protect the Eastern Europe in the event of a wider war with Russia.
Although the details of the planned reinforcement are still under discussion, Canada is committed to acquiring and deploying anti-tank weapons, counter-drone and air defense systems, ammunition and explosives as part of this effort.
Paul said the military was looking to purchase man-portable anti-aircraft missiles as a first step to addressing the broader need to protect against air attack, while working on a more comprehensive system in the medium term.
« There’s a couple of ticket items there that I’m maybe going to be like to myself and the rest of my team, ‘OK, we have something on the shelf right now. It’s not optimal. , but it’s good enough,' » he said. .
The war in Ukraine also revealed the advantage of long-range missile systems capable of hitting with precision, Paul said. The United States donated such weapons to the Ukrainian army and they proved to be decisive on the battlefield.
The Canadian Army currently relies on M777 howitzers for artillery support, which provide approximately 30 to 40 kilometers of cover.
« Reach is important, » Paul said. « The nature of warfare is changing. So we have to be in a position where a battle group and a brigade, their area of influence is more around 100 to 125 kilometers. »
The evolving nature of warfare has also underscored the need for commanders to have a better sense of what is happening on the battlefield and the ability to issue orders and control units in real time. This will involve AI and other advanced calculations.
« You need hundreds of sensors and you need to be able to take the data and process it quickly, » Paul said. « You have to take advantage of the machine. »
At the same time, the army commander said one of the real challenges in getting the equipment is that many of Canada’s allies have come to the same conclusions about what they need and are getting ready to buy the equipment. same material.
« We’re looking at options, we’re looking at what’s available, » he said. « Keeping in mind that all Western democracies are knocking on the doors of the same companies right now to try to procure these same weapon systems. »
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 29, 2022.