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Ottawa to buy old German tanks as spare parts for Afghan mission

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2008 | 5:50 AM ET

Canada plans to buy a handful of older, surplus German tanks to cannibalize for spare parts to keep its combat forces on the move in Afghanistan.

The undisclosed purchase is apparently part of the $1.3-billion tank modernization program announced last year by former defence minister Gordon O'Connor.

The current minister, Peter MacKay, says the purchase was necessary.

"Our loaned Leopard 2 tanks are an invaluable asset to commanders in Afghanistan," MacKay said in a statement late Tuesday.

"The procurement of surplus German vehicles will provide the Canadian Forces with valuable platforms for training, testing and, where applicable, spare parts."

This acquisition fills the short-term needs of the military, he said while on a trade mission in India.

Defence industry sources said the plan involves 15 Leopard 2A4s, which have already been taken out of service by the Bundeswehr.

A request for proposals is expected to go out to contractors next week.

The Canadians "are procuring spare parts, but obviously not enough," said a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Last summer, the Canadian army borrowed 20 Leopard A6Ms from the Germans in order to quickly replace its nearly 30-year-old Leopard tanks, which were not suited for the Afghan heat. It has since completed a deal to buy an additional 100 surplus tanks from the Dutch and will return the loaners in September 2009.

The German tanks, specially armoured to deal with powerful improvised explosive devices, have taken a pounding on Kandahar's highways and are burning through spare parts at a high rate.

Industry sources said stripping the older A4-variants for parts may present a bit of a problem since the tanks in Afghanistan are newer, contain fewer hydraulic systems and not all the parts are in the same configuration as the A6-type.

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