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Army set to scrap dozens of troop carriers — even as Ukraine pleads for more equipment

A Ukrainian serviceman of 68 Oleksa Dovbush brigade drives a M113 armoured personnel vehicle toward frontline positions near Vuhledar, Ukraine on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP - image credit)
A Ukrainian serviceman of 68 Oleksa Dovbush brigade drives a M113 armoured personnel vehicle toward frontline positions near Vuhledar, Ukraine on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP - image credit)

The Canadian Army has dozens of older troop carriers it plans to send to the scrapheap this year — even though a private company has offered to refurbish them for use in Ukraine.

The Department of National Defence (DND) says 67 tracked light armour vehicles (TLAVs) out of a fleet of 140 are "parked awaiting final demilitarization and disposal, or are being used as a source of spare parts" for the 73 vehicles that remain in service.

All of the M113 troop carriers, which have been in service for decades, are in "poor condition" and are awaiting disposal, DND says. They department says they will be replaced within the next few years by brand new Armoured Combat Support Vehicles (ACSVs).

Armatec Survivability, based in London, Ont., has offered to update surplus armoured vehicles, the federal Conservative opposition noted this week.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is due to visit Ottawa on Friday, where he's expected to ask Canada for more military equipment, including additional armoured fighting vehicles and tanks.

Canada already has donated eight Leopard 2A4 tanks, 39 new ACSVs and 208 Roshel Senator armoured four-by-fours — part of what is now a $1.8 billion arms package for the embattled Eastern European nation.

A senior DND official this week acknowledged the Armatec proposal, adding no decision has been made. He would not indicate whether the proposal was being looked upon favourably.

"Ultimately, that's a decision that we pass up to policymakers and then we try and act," Ty Curran, the deputy director general of international security, told the House of Commons defence committee on Tuesday.

Ukrainian servicemen ride atop of an M113 armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the town of Lyman, recently liberated by the Ukrainian armed forces, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, Donetsk region, Ukraine October 7, 2022.
Ukrainian servicemen ride atop of an M113 armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the town of Lyman, recently liberated by the Ukrainian armed forces, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, Donetsk region, Ukraine October 7, 2022.

Ukrainian servicemen ride atop an M113 armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the town of Lyman in Donetsk region, Ukraine on October 7, 2022. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters)

Curran said Armatec's pitch is one of several unsolicited offers that have landed on federal desks since the all-out Russian invasion of Ukraine began last year.

"The challenge, of course, around any of the donations that come out of ... [Canadian Armed Forces] inventory is balancing out the operational requirements," he said.

In a written response to a CBC News request for information on the M-113 vehicles, DND said that of the 73 operational TLAVs, 30 are considered reserve and are being held at military depots. That's in addition to the 67 already considered surplus and about to be junked.

Canada has to consider multiple factors before donating battlefield equipment to Ukraine, the department's written statement added.

'Very poor condition'

"Any equipment donated by Canada must be battlefield sustainable, but more importantly, must meet a specific need identified by Ukraine and be equipment that the Ukrainians are trained to use and have the resources and capabilities to maintain," the department said.

"The remaining quantity of M113s not being employed by the CAF are either awaiting final demilitarization and disposal due to being in very poor condition, or are being retained as a source of spare parts for the operational fleet."

The Ukrainians are very familiar with the operation and maintenance of the M113. Ukraine has received, or is in the process of receiving, over 560 of the troop carriers from the United States, Lithuania, Denmark, Spain and Italy, among other countries.

During Tuesday's committee hearing, Conservative defence critic James Bezan said both the United States and Australia are interested in partnering with Canada in the Armatec venture because they also want to put their surplus vehicles into the field for Ukraine.

Conservative MP James Bezan rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday March 9, 2021 in Ottawa.
Conservative MP James Bezan rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday March 9, 2021 in Ottawa.

Conservative MP James Bezan pressed a department official to state whether the government is pursuing a proposal to send refurbished troop carriers to Ukraine. (Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)

Bezan asked Curran to explain the proposal's status. He said Armatec told him it could refurbish as many as eight M113s each month.

Curran didn't directly answer that question, prompting committee chair Liberal MP John McKay to ask for clarification.

The federal government has set aside up to $500 million for the current budget year for military hardware donations to Ukraine, Curran said, adding the Armatec project could be funded out of that pool of money.

In addition to the M113s, the Canadian army has 195 LAV II Bisons and 149 Coyote armoured reconnaissance vehicles that will be taken out of service this year, DND says. It's not clear whether there are any private sector proposals to refurbish them for use in Ukraine.