Canada Bringing Buffalos, Cougars to Afghanistan
“Task Force Afghanistan, until recently, was supported by the US military’s Route Clearance Package; however, with the transition to the International Security Assistance Force, the US assets have been redeployed elsewhere. Their proven track record and unique performance is not currently available anywhere else in the world, and Canada has chosen to move quickly to meet the needs of the Canadian Forces by working with our American ally to procure the vehicles.”
The proposed vehicles fall into 3 types:
“The Expedient Route Opening Capability (EROC) systems will conduct mounted searches for buried improvised explosive devices using three types of highly specialized vehicles: the Husky, the Buffalo and the Cougar. The systems will be acquired through the United States military; use in operations have proven how highly successful these EROC systems are. Canada intends to obtain a total of 16 vehicles, including six Husky, five Buffalo, and five Cougar 6×6 vehicles.
The Husky provides the detection capability, with a landmine overpass capability and a mounted full-width metal detector enabling the detection of targets located in the roadbed or along the verges. Once a target has been detected, the Buffalo will use its extendable arm and remote controlled camera to physically expose the potential target for verification and identification. The Cougar will transport the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Operators and their vast array of tools, including Explosive Ordnance Disposal robots, to dispose of the IED.”
The 16 vehicles, with 2 years of integrated logistics support, training, and field service support, will cost approximately C$ 29.6 million (currently about $26 million). In the Husky’s case, field service and spares must include “Red Pack” replacements for front and/or rear axles due to mine damage.
Sept 30/09: Gyrocam Systems, LLC in East Sarasota, FL receives a $7.4 million firm-fixed-price contract under Foreign Military Sale Case CN-P-LIK. The firm will produce and deliver 17 Gyrocam Vehicle Optics Sensor Systems, plus spare parts and tools, and provide associated vendor services to complete their integration, installation and test on Canada’s Buffalo A2 vehicles with BAE bar armor. These cameras systems will be used by the Canadian government in support of existing VOSS II field support representatives contracted under the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.
Work is to be performed in Sarasota, FL with an estimated completion date of Jan 31/10. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers CECOM Contracting Center Washington in Fort Belvoir, VA (W9009MY-09-C-0079).
May 4/07: Force Protection, Inc. receives an $8.9 million contract award from the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) to produce 5 Buffalo mine-clearance vehicles and 5 Cougar mine-resistant medium patrol vehicles. Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA will administer the contract under a foreign military sales agreement (FMS), which also consists of 90-days worth of spares, forward deployment and maintenance workshop service blocks, field service representatives, and operator and maintenance training (M67854-07-D-5039).
There are reports that a request for more vehicles was blocked by the USMC due to the priority of its own MRAP program orders, but the Canadian DND has chosen not to respond to DID’s questions in this area. What is known is that this contract was solicited as a sole source procurement under the terms of an “International Agreement” as cited under FAR 6.302-4.
With its v-shaped hull that deflects mine blasts, and an asphalt-busting claw that can dig out land mines, the Buffalo is a very unique vehicle. Its only serious competitors for the mine removal role would be tracked tank-based designs like the Swiss Leopard-2 Kodiak AEV, or Canada’s Leopard-1 based Badger. These tracked vehicles tend to be more expensive, but offer far more all-terrain mobility, and a much wider variety of combat engineering capabilities. A very small number of Badger vehicles are already serving in Afghanistan, and many of Canada’s Leopard 1 tanks in theater have also been fitted with dozer blades or mine ploughs. The Buffalo cannot substitute for these vehicles, but it does offer a less expensive and proven complement if one’s concern is IED land mines on or near roads.
Road building has been a key focus of the Karzai government’s approach to reconstructing Afghanistan. They provide economic multipliers for an area as trade resumes, and greater access for the Afghan government to deliver both military forces and public services.
Force Protection’s Cougar vehicle is less unique, and several competitive vehicles exist in its general class. The Dutch who serve beside Canada, Britain, and Australia in Afghanistan’s southern provinces chose Australia’s Bushmaster MPV, for instance, and had vehicles delivered into theater on an emergency basis right out of Australian Army stocks. German ISAF forces in Afghanistan’s north use KMW’s Dingo 2, which has survived mine blast attacks in theater. BAE has just introduced the RG-33L, which includes a robotic arm that lacks the Buffalo’s shovel-claw power but is very useful for investigating potential mines; it recently received a small deployment order under the US MRAP program.
Nevertheless, Canada’s Department of National Defense chose a sole source procurement approach. Vehicles will be produced by Force Protection in Ladson, SC, and production is scheduled to begin no later than August 2007, with final delivery scheduled for May 2008. The Canadian variant will be a 6×6 vehicle, with a curb weight of at least 38,000 pounds and a total capacity weight of 52,000 pounds. There are reports that Canada’s Cougars will use the same “no side windows” profile as Britain’s ‘Mastiff PPV’ variant.
In the manufacturer’s May 1, 2007 release, Force Protection Vice President for Program Management Damon Walsh said that: “This initial, urgent order will go directly to CEFCOM for immediate deployment…”
Canadian forces in theater are certainly becoming more hardened and combat-ready; a pre-deployment order for 75 RG-31 Nyala mine-protected vehicles has been followed by the deployment of tracked M113 armored personnel carriers, Leopard C2/1A5 tanks, the purchase & lease of Leopard 2A6M tanks, and now this order.