Canadian special forces operators want brand new ultralight combat vehicles small enough to be stored inside of helicopters and delivered by parachutes for top secret operations, according to a federal tender recently released online.
The Request For Information comes amid the increasing prominence of special operations groups within the Canadian Armed Forces, and a controversial training mission of Kurdish soldiers in Iraq that has already claimed the life of one Canadian commando.
The Ultra-Light Combat Vehicles are on the wish lists of several special forces from Western nations allied to Canada. The Washington Post reports that undisclosed units within the US Special Operations Command are looking into similar vehicles, while the 82nd Airborne has already tested the vehicles to rave reviews from soldiers.
The vehicles provide quick deployment into a hostile area, allowing soldiers to drive to an objective (and exit) without putting helicopters within the range of the enemy fire that could shoot them down.
The tender, which asks for information on the platforms in advance of potential purchase, says the vehicles must be function in polar and desert temperatures, reach speeds of 55 miles an hour within the first 2,500 feet of travel and sustain that at a cruising speed across distances of 30 miles. A typical ULCV carries at least four soldiers at a time and rarely refuels.
Because the tender is an RFI, the final requirements for the vehicles are not fixed and subject to change during the research process.
A source within the Canadian government confirmed to VICE News the vehicles are specifically intended for Canadian commandos.
"The (tender) for Ultra Light Combat Vehicles is for CANSOFCOM (Canadian Special Operations Forces Command) and, if purchased, would be employed by various task forces within that organization," said Ashley Lemire, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense.
Though it's known Canadian special forces operators are currently active in Iraq, they often conduct military business under a top secret mandate from Ottawa.
Knowing CANSOFCOM, which is the branch of the military overseeing all commando units in the country, is purchasing the vehicles offers a glimpse into how future campaigns might be carried out.
A model of ULCV was tested in war games by the American military during Operation Dragon Spear and were best used as mobility platforms for reconnaissance operations, or taking soldiers near where they would launch an attack on foot.
In the request, the government outlines the potential platforms must have "a proven history in delivering and supporting maneuver solutions to special operations applications," with the ability to be deployed and stored inside, "CC-177 Globemaster aircraft, the CC-130 Hercules aircraft, and the CH-147 Chinook helicopter."
Polaris — a Medina, Minnesota based firm known for snowmobiles — produces the Polaris MRZR-4, tested by American forces and thought to be ideal for "airfield seizure" missions. It is a possible frontrunner for Canada to purchase.
At the moment, CANSOFCOM is operating close to the frontlines in Iraq with soldiers traveling by vehicle as they navigate loosely controlled Kurdish territory. But the government has been steadfast in its claim it is not sending soldiers on "offensive" missions that directly attack Islamic State militants.
Of late, Joint Task Force Two — Canada's version of Delta Force — and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, the Green Berets of the CAF, have been involved in training missions in Jamaica, Iraq, Jordan, Niger, Mali, and had experience fighting Taliban and al Qaeda operatives during Canada's mission in Afghanistan that officially ended in 2014.
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