Military radar systems to get upgrade: MacKay

The federal government will spend $56 million to modernize two air force radar systems that it says will play a pivotal role in defending North American airspace.

The two new portable radar systems for Canadian Forces Base 4 Wing Cold Lake in Alberta and CFB 3 Wing Bagotville in Quebec are part of more than $80 million in upgrades for the military announced Tuesday by Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

MacKay, speaking at CFB 17 Wing in Winnipeg, said the radar systems can be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world, in support of military operations or even humanitarian missions such as last year's deployment to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

The funding for the projects — including $5.6 million for new aircraft cargo loaders and an upgrade to the sewer system at 17 Wing — comes from money allocated in the last budget.

The minister said the latest investments, along with the recent purchase of up to 65 F-35 stealth fighter jets, show the Conservative government is giving the Canadian military the tools to "do the job we ask of them."

The Opposition Liberals have vowed to cancel the F-35 contract and open a bidding process for aircraft that will eventually replace Canada's fleet of aging CF-18s, saying the planes are not the right priority for Canada at a time of when the federal government holds a record deficit.

But MacKay reiterated Tuesday it was the previous Liberal government that began the process by signing a memorandum of understanding with Lockheed Martin to develop the Joint Strike Fighter.

When asked about a recent poll that suggests a majority of Canadians view Arctic security and sovereignty as a key priority for the country's foreign policy, MacKay said the government was "very aware and cognizant" of the future challenges in the region and that much of that responsibility falls to the military.

He said the government will continue to make "specific equipment investments" to bolster the military's Arctic operations.

MacKay also suggested unmanned aerial vehicles being used in Afghanistan could have a future in the North.