Canadian military to spend $1 billion on unmanned armed drones

A US Predator drone sets off from its hangar at Bagram air base in Afghanistan.It appears that Canada is getting involved in the drone arms race.

According to a report in the Ottawa Citizen, the Harper government recently approved a military 'request to aerospace firms' to provide details about the types of drones now available in the marketplace.

The 'request' pointed out the need for the unmanned aircraft to operate in the Arctic. The aircraft should also be able to carry precision-guided munitions, the government said.

"This capability will allow the CF [Canadian Forces] to fill critical deficiencies," industry officials were told in the request for information sent to them July 23.

According to DND documents, the military intends to spend around $1 billion on the project.

The development and deployment of armed drones has become a sensitive subject around the world, primarily because of the way the Americans have used them for cross-border raids on Taliban and al-Qaida suspects in Pakistan. Their use has provoked concern that many civilians have been caught during these air strikes.

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In a column last month  for the Financial Times, former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff argued that more drones could lead to more wars.

"Virtual technologies make it easier for democracies to wage war because they eliminate the risk of blood sacrifice that once forced democratic peoples to be prudent," Ignatieff wrote.

"Now democracies do not even have to put their pilots in harm's way. Cyberwar and drones offer Nato democracies enticing prospects of cheap, risk-free warfare — and not just democracies. A new arms race is already under way."

50 countries, including Canada, have used unarmed drones in military conflicts or for routine surveillance.

The United States was the first country to use an armed version of the unmanned aircraft during the NATO Kosovo campaign in 1999. Since then they've been used in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Pakistan.

In addition to Canada, GermanyKorea, Russia and China have also shown interest in developing an armed drone program.

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