Too Late? Canada’s CASW for 40mm GMGs
The infantry soldier is the center of gravity in current wars, and improvements to the individual soldier’s equipment and firepower overmatch often provide most bang for the buck to militaries wishing to make a difference on the ground. They’re not high profile purchases, however, which often creates neglect and delays. 40mm grenade weapons are an obvious choice, given their area suppression abilities and versatile ammunition. Grenade Machine Guns go beyond 1-shot rifle attachments and even beyond multi-shot weapons like the M-32/MSGL, providing medium-range, area effect firepower that decisively beats other infantry weapons within its reach.
The Americans have deployed 40mm GMGs from the outset of conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, mostly General Dynamics’ Mk19. That inventory is modernizing, as the USA has begun buying General Dynamics’ new STRIKER 40, with programmed airburst features. Others have been slower. Britain addressed this gap back in 2006, when it began ordering Heckler & Koch GMG systems to equip its Royal Marines. Canada has been much slower to react, but 8 years after its troops entered Afghanistan, the Close Area Suppression Weapon (CASW) project aims to give Canadians the same options that other militaries already enjoy…
- The CASW Cock-Up
- Contracts & Key Events [updated]
- Additional Readings [updated]
The CASW Cock-Up
CASW has been cited, justly, as an example of ongoing, serious problems with Canada’s military procurement system. The country began fielding soldiers to Afghanistan at the beginning of 2002, and in May 2003, the Army’s “Iron Bombard” examined the capabilities offered by mortars and automatic grenade launchers in urban fighting. The study recommended that an Advanced Grenade Launcher be considered as a possible support weapon for the LAV-III Rifle Company instead of the M19 60mm mortar, with a possible purchase of 81mm mortars as a supplement.
The $100 million CASW project began in 2004, and was originally slated for delivery in August 2006. While Canadians fought and died in Afghanistan, delivery dates kept slipping, first to summer 2008, then to late 2009, and now to 2012.
The key reasons were utterly bureaucratic. After initial delays, the competition had to be restarted in 2009, after Public Works Canada (which, oddly, has a role in Canadian defense buys) ruled that the sole bidder, Rheinmetall Canada, failed to provide enough information on the financial forms attached to its proposal. Rheinmetall Canada argued that it submitted a fully compliant bid, but that argument, and the needs of troops on the ground, were deemed irrelevant by Public Works Canada.
The procurement process was relaunched in summer 2009, and Rheinmetall Canada’s team was said to be the winner in early 2010, beating ST Kinetics’ CIS 40mm CSL in the relaunched CASW competition. The contract wasn’t announced until December 2010, however. The winner, HK’s 40mm Grenade Machine Gun is an excellent heavy weapon choice for infantry engagements, firing up to 340 grenades per minute that burst around enemies up to 1.5 km away. It is used by 16 militaries around the world.
By 2012, when HK’s GMGs finally enter Canadian service, Canada’s presence in Afghanistan is supposed to be a training-only presence. Program delays have ensured that these valuable weapons will arrive too late to make much of a difference to the multi-year mission, except as a base protection weapon.
A separate automatic grenade launcher competition is expected in future, for vehicle mounted weapons.
Contracts & Key Events
A September 2010 release from BAE cited Canada’s USD 14 million multi-year buy of these sights, which are slated to be used on a number of weapons. See also Defence Watch.
Dec 17/10: Rheinmetall Canada Inc. of Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec, announces that they’ve won the competition to supply the Canadian Army with 304 Heckler & Koch 40mm grenade machine guns (GMGs) under the “Close Area Suppression Weapon” (CASW) project, along with fire control systems and 250,000 rounds of 40mm practice and service ammunition, to be delivered in several lots. The weapons will be known as C16s in the Canadian Forces, and the order is worth approximately EUR 70 million (C$ 93.5M/ USD 92.3M).
Rheinmetall Canada is responsible for project management, as well as complete assembly and integration of the Vinghog fire control technology from recently acquired Rheinmetall subsidiary Simrad Optronics of Norway. Rheinmetall Canada is also in charge of support, spare parts, and servicing and maintaining the C16 during military operations.
May 31/10: David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen provides an update, of sorts, on the CASW program:
“There has still been no official announcement about which firm has won the Close Area Suppression Weapon (CASW) contract to supply the Canadian Army with an automatic grenade launcher.
I’ve checked in with sources on what is happening with this deal and they say everything ready to go for an announcement. In February Defence Watch reported that there have been strong suggestions in Ottawa from sources that the contract will eventually end up in the hands of Rheinmetall Canada. I was also told again this week that Rheinmetall had the contact but that there was still some sign-offs from Treasury Board to be done before an announcement.”
Aug 31/09: David Pugliese relays a late emailed non-answer from Public Works Canada, and discusses the potential for legal action over the contract:
“What this email doesn’t answer is the following question:
In the past, PWGSC has allowed firms to “repair” their bids if there are non-major problems, which was the issue in this case, I’m told. This happened, for instance, on the earlier army truck program. So why wasn’t this done this time?
Maybe the real answers will come out if Rheinmetall decides to sue the government over this one. The firm says it is “keeping all its options open” — translated, that means it is ticked off by this latest turn of events and might fight it out in court depending on how the situation proceeds. Stay tuned.”
July 27/09: David Pugliese reports on Public Works Canada’s delays to the CASW project, and their lack of transparency or concern regarding those delays.
July 16/09: CASW notice of proposed procurement reissued yet again, with an Oct 8/09 closing date.
May 29/09: CASW notice of proposed procurement reissued yet again, with an Aug 27/09 closing date.
Feb 2/09: CASW notice of proposed procurement reissued, with a new March 17/09 closing date.
Nov 11/08: David Pugliese reports that the CASW program is on again as of Nov 11/08, and adds:
“Army Col. Francois Riffou, then director of land requirements, acknowledged in 2007 that there were some in the service who were reticent about the removal of the 60 mm mortars. “I’m bringing in CASW but I have to remove something from the inventory and that something could be 60mm mortars,” Riffou said. “They’re using 60mm mortars right now in (the Afghanistan) theater and there’s always the fear” of losing a capability. Other officers said the plan to remove the mortars does not make military sense since they perform a different role than that handled by the automatic grenade launchers. The officers argue that mortars should be seen as unrelated systems.”
Nov 7/08: CASW notice of proposed procurement canceled.
- Public Works Canada – Company Area Suppression Weapon. Subsequent RFP/NPPs renamed it.
- CASR (Nov 2008, update Aug 2009) – CASW (Close Area Suppression Weapon System) Automatic Grenade Launcher – MERX Notice of Proposed Procurement
- David Pugliese (Jan 16/10) – Canadian Forces Want More Automatic Grenade Launchers
- Royal Military College of Canada (2000) – Infantry Company Crew Served Weapons Rationalization. Thanks to David Churchus for the tip.