DND News

Heavy Equipment replacement project

In civilian life, construction is often seen as a nuisance. In the military, however, construction and the machinery that comes with it, known in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as “Heavy Equipment,” can literally be life-saving.

Major Ryan Adams is heading up the Common Heavy Equipment Replacement (CHER) project, created to refresh the CAF’s current fleet, which dates from the 1980s and 1990s. Heavy Equipment is an umbrella term for construction vehicles and others used for material handling. They may not generate as much excitement as a Leopard II tank or a Light Armoured Vehicle but as Maj Adams explained, these vehicles are key enablers for many important military tasks.

Heavy Equipment built the Forward Operating Bases that sheltered frontline troops during the Afghanistan campaign. It also a major difference during Operation LENTUS 13-01, the CAF’s response to flooding in southern Alberta in 2013.

“They used heavy equipment to construct a 1.5-kilometre flood berm through a residential area in Medicine Hat,” he recalled. “It takes heavy equipment to build on that scale quickly; you can’t achieve that with people and shovels. And it ended up protecting an entire neighbourhood.”

“I was in Canmore, Alberta and the Trans Canada had been washed out at several points, or debris had come down from the mountains onto the road,” Maj Adams added. “So we used our heavy equipment – front-end loaders, dump trucks, and backhoes mostly – and went down the highway scooping that debris off the road, which served to let civilian construction crews come through.”

The Heavy Equipment fleet is also a force multiplier, producing results much greater than its size. “We don’t need a ton of these machines to bring their capability to bear,” he said. “What they do supports and enables a great number of our troops to do whatever it is they happen to be doing at that particular place and time.”

Using a front-end loader, two construction engineers build a secure outer perimeter around Joint Task Force - Iraq’s new operation centre in the mid-day sun of Kuwait during Operation Impact in February 2016. Front-end loaders are just one part of the Canadian Army’s Heavy Equipment fleet, which will be refreshed by new vehicles beginning in 2022. (Photo: DND/MDN Canada)

And the CHER project itself is very much in keeping with the idea of getting the most possible done with the fewest possible resources, Maj Adams explained.

The Canadian Army was named the lead agency on CHER, he said, and several similar projects looking at heavy equipment for other CAF branches were folded into it. One of the goals for the project is to ensure that, whatever the actual vehicles chosen, there will be commonality between the branches.

“Currently, the CAF has six different versions of the bulldozer. And within those six different versions there is more than one manufacturer. So the fleet managers are busy stocking parts for six different vehicles from multiple manufacturers,” noted Maj Adams.  “Procuring common equipment will not only streamline fleet management, lower operation and maintenance costs, but also improve overall readiness for operations.  With the same equipment, training is also consistent for everyone. So, the intent of this project is to make the capability more efficient.”

CHER is about to move into the third of five phases that make up the procurement process, with initial delivery of equipment expected in 2022.

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 the article “Summary of the Defence Equipment Acquisition Process” in Related Links above.

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Steven Fouchard is with the Directorate of Army Public Affairs.