Backgrounder Article from  National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces

Government of Canada Enhances Equipment for North Operations

September 2, 2016 – Whitehorse, Yukon – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has operated in the North for more than a century and routinely conducts land, sea and air security, sovereignty and surveillance patrols, and monitors and controls northern airspace in partnership with the United States. In addition, the CAF conducts aeronautical and maritime search and rescue missions in coordination with other government departments and agencies, and maintains a signals intelligence receiving facility at Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert, which is the most northern permanently inhabited settlement in the world.

The Role of the Canadian Rangers

The Canadian Rangers are a sub-component of the CAF Reserve providing surveillance and sovereignty patrols for national security and public safety in northern Canada. They are effectively the military’s eyes and ears in the sparsely settled northern coastal and isolated areas of Canada that cannot conveniently or economically be covered by other parts of the CAF.

Today, there are approximately 5,000 Canadian Rangers living in more than 200 communities. Given the critical role that the Canadian Rangers play in the safety and security of our northern communities, and the sovereignty of our North, they require well-functioning reliable supplies and equipment. Currently, the Rangers are equipped with the Lee Enfield rifle, a weapon dating back to the 1940s, which has been kept in service due to its superb performance in Canada’s austere northern climate. However, due to the age of the Lee Enfield rifle, replacement parts have become less available and may be completely unavailable after 2017. The Government of Canada is therefore replacing the Lee Enfields with modern rifles to maintain the Canadian Rangers’ operational capabilities.

A Call for a Rifle Design Suitable for Canada’s North

The Canadian Rangers require a specialized, robust rifle that can perform reliably in temperatures well below freezing. There will also be unique cosmetic elements to help CAF and Royal Canadian Mounted Police personnel identify an official Ranger rifle from a distance, leading to a specific design for these rifles as opposed to purchasing off-the-shelf stock.

The Government of Canada turned to a long-established Canadian expert in the weapons industry, Colt Canada, which holds a solid track record in supplying and maintaining small arms, including rifles. The company, previously called Diemaco, has been Canada's Small Arms Strategic Source and Centre of Excellence since it was competitively selected in 1976 under the federal Munitions Supply Program (MSP). This stable Canadian small arms manufacturing and maintenance capacity is considered key for the constant readiness of the CAF for domestic and international operations. The Government of Canada remains committed to the MSP. 

The government has in fact issued two contracts to Colt Canada. The first contract, valued at approximately $1.5 million, was awarded for the management of the design competition, as well as the delivery, testing, and evaluation of 125 prototype rifles. Stoeger Canada, representing the Sako Tikka Rifle, was chosen in November 2014 as the winning bidder for the rifle design. The Department of National Defence (DND) and Public Services and Procurement Canada participated fully in evaluating the design bids, along with Colt Canada as the competitively selected manufacturer.

The second follow-on contract of up to $32.8 million was signed on July 7, 2016.This will enable Colt Canada to buy the technical data package and a manufacturing license agreement for the design, and to produce 6,820 new rifles, which will be phased into use by the Canadian Rangers between 2017 and 2019. The new rifles will be manufactured at Colt Canada’s facilities in Kitchener, Ontario. This contract also includes quality control, the production of spare parts, and accessories such as cases and trigger safety locks. Canada will contract General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, also an identified partner through the strategic source agreement with the MSP, to supply the ammunitions.

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