Tougher, faster assault boats coming to the Canadian Army

Article / June 29, 2017 / Project number: 17-0152

By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

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Ottawa, Ontario — The Canadian Army (CA) is preparing to receive a new fleet of assault boats that will increase the total number at its disposal and make them more accessible to a wider range of units.

Combat engineers are traditionally the main users, explained Major Ryan Adams, CA project officer for the Assault Boat Replacement Project, and will be among the first to receive new boats. 

The project is in the implementation phase and the first deliveries are expected later this year.  Over the next four years, a total of 350 will be purchased –150 more than are now in service.

The main purpose of assault boats, said Maj Adams, is “for Combat engineers to facilitate crossing operations for dismounted troops [soldiers on foot] in tactical operations. They deliver, assemble and crew the boats, and the dismounted troops marry-up with those engineers, who then ferry them across the river.”

The Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), which is deployed on short notice to natural disaster areas or humanitarian emergencies, will receive an allotment of the new assault boats, he added, as will light infantry units.

“We will equip the infantry with integral boats to enable their reconnaissance teams,” said Maj Adams. “That way they will be empowered to meet their more immediate needs while utilizing engineer support for larger crossing operations.”

Wear and tear on the in-service assault boats, which date to the 1990s, is a major reason for the replacement effort. While they are relatively unsophisticated as military vehicles go, and the CA is shopping for many of the same basic features included on the current models, Maj Adams said manufacturers have been getting innovative.

“We still require a 12-person boat,” he said. “One that can still be fully collapsed into a bag for soldiers to carry. That said, all of the bidders are proposing a V-shaped inflatable hull, which increases performance potential over the current flat-bottom boat. We are also looking for a semi-rigid flooring system to further strengthen the boat. Coupled with the V-hull, the new boat will be capable of accepting a higher horsepower motor to significantly improve overall performance at maximum payload in more challenging surface conditions.”

As basic as assault boats might appear to the unfamiliar eye, they have many strengths. The CA’s current boats and most of those under consideration as replacements incorporate extra air chambers for safety and are constructed of a textile called Hypalon.

“It is a very common textile used for military inflatable boats across the world,” said Maj Adams. “For Canada it’s particularly useful because of its long life expectancy, chemical and UV light resistance and most importantly, it has excellent extreme low temperature performance.”

The replacement project is also an example of effective collaboration between different sectors of both the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence. After coordinating with stakeholders, Maj Adams’ team provided the Army’s operational requirements to Assistant Deputy Minister (Materiel).  As well, as the Life-Cycle Manager for all CAF small boats fleets, Director Naval Platform Systems (DNPS) is staffed with the experts to manage this project on behalf of the Canadian Army.

Procuring weapons and vehicles for the Canadian Armed Forces is a long and detailed process. This is to ensure that military members are well-equipped and well-protected so they can effectively serve Canadians at home and abroad. Every measure is taken to make sure taxpayers get the best value for their money. The project described in this article is in the Options Analysis phase. See related links to learn more about the Defence Equipment Acquisition Process and its phases.

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