24 septembre 2020 | Local, Sécurité, Autre défense

Project to buy new pistols for Canadian Forces is once again underway

David Pugliese

The project to purchase pistols to replace the Canadian military's Second World War-era handguns is once again underway and National Defence hopes to have the new weapons by the summer of 2022.

The project had been stalled for years after small arms firms rejected in 2011 the federal government requirement that the guns be built at Colt Canada in Kitchener, Ont. In addition, the companies balked at the stipulation they had to turn over their proprietary firearms information to Colt, a firm that some saw as a competitor.

But with small arms companies reluctant to bid on the Canadian pistol project, the federal government has had no choice but to drop those requirements and have an open competition.

A request for bids will now be issued in early 2021, DND spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande confirmed to this newspaper.

She said a “minimum of 9,000” handguns will be purchased. “These are mainly intended for the Canadian Army, and will be issued as required,” she added.

The department hopes to have a contract in place by the summer of 2021, with initial deliveries by the summer of 2022, she added.

The DND declined to discuss the amount of money that taxpayers will spend on the project.

The new handguns will replace the Second World War-era Browning Hi-Power pistols used by the Canadian Forces.

The replacement program for the 9mm Browning Hi-Power pistols has been on the books for years. In the fall of 2011, the DND abruptly cancelled plans for the purchase of 10,000 new pistols. The decision to shut the process down came after international firearms companies balked at the stipulation the firms turn over their confidential technical data to Colt Canada so the guns could be manufactured in Canada.

Colt is the country's Small Arms Strategic Source and Centre of Excellence.

The DND was told at the time by industry representatives that it didn't make economic sense to have Colt manufacture the guns in Canada or to have parts shipped to Colt so the guns could be assembled in Canada.

The handgun replacement project has been seen as an example of a highly dysfunctional military procurement system. At one point the DND tried to prevent small arms companies from talking to journalists about the bungled procurement but the department's decree was largely ignored.

Under the Munitions Supply Program sole source deals have been directed to Colt Canada to maintain a small arms expertise in the country. In late January Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced the purchase of more than 3,600 new C6AI FLEX General Purpose Machine Guns from the company. The $96-million order was a follow-on deal to the 2017 contract for 1,148 of the same machine guns. Some spare parts are included along with cleaning kits and carrying slings in the purchase.

Critics pointed out that the cost of each gun worked out to around $27,000, at least twice the amount that other militaries are spending. In February and April two other contracts were directed to Colt to produce a semi-automatic rifle in 7.62 calibre to be used by Canadian Forces sniper teams as an auxiliary weapon.

Lamirande said in 2018 changes were made to improve the Munitions Supply Program. Under those changes, new business was no longer automatically given to members of the supply program.

Instead a thorough analysis is to be done to decide whether it is better to open a project up to competition or sole source the deal to firms in the Munitions Supply Program.

“Factors that are considered include performance, value for money, flexibility, innovation potential, and socio-economic benefits,” Lamirande explained. “We also include considerations for current availability within timeframes and the long term sustainability of the solution.”


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