11 juin 2018 |
It’s been a week since the Trump White House slapped Canada with steel and aluminum tariffs on the ground that reliance on our imports was threatening the “national security” of the United States.
If Canadians are particularly galled at this, it might be because no foreign country in modern times has done more to arm and equip the United States than Canada. “I would not be surprised if every single major aircraft or warship in U.S. military service today has Canadian components in it,” said Richard Shimooka, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
Below, a cursory summary of some of the Canadian stuff used by history’s most powerful military.
We’ll start with an entry that directly concerns steel and aluminum. Quebec-based Héroux-Devtek is the world’s third largest aircraft landing gear company, and some of that is thanks to a longstanding relationship with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy. Specifically, Héroux-Devtek is in charge of landing gear repair and overhaul for several large U.S. aircraft, including the heavy-lift C-130 Hercules. Of course, landing gear is made almost entirely of steel or aluminum. So, thanks to these new tariffs, American military procurers are either going to start getting hosed on their Héroux-Devtek contracts — or they’re going to have start getting their landing gear overhauls from a U.S. company that isn’t their first choice.
Armoured personnel carriers
“Canada and the US have been building military equipment for each other since the summer of 1940,” David Bercuson, a military historian at the University of Calgary, told the National Post. “Literally billions of dollars of such equipment has passed the border since then.” The most obvious example is the Stryker. There are nearly 5,000 Stryker armoured personnel carriers in the U.S. military, and all of them were built in London, Ontario. Not only that, but the Stryker is even based on a Canadian design, the LAV III. Coming in at a rock bottom $4 million apiece, the Americans use Strykers for everything: Ambulances, firefighting, missile platforms, chemical weapons defence and mine detection. They even started rigging them up with giant lasers to shoot down enemy drones. Armoured vehicles happen to be a Canadian specialty. While the United States was busy throwing money at big ticket items such as tanks and attack helicopters, the shoestring Canadians have gotten very good at the much cheaper task of simply strapping guns and armour to oversized trucks. And if a U.S. diplomat found themselves touring Iraq in an armoured Toyota Land Cruiser, chances are good they were shielded from bullets and IEDs by Canadian workmanship.
Here again, the United States has it covered when it comes to big ticket aircraft such as fighters or bombers. But the U.S. military will occasionally call up Canadian plane-makers when it needs something quirky. Bombardier has retooled some of its airliners and business jets to act as airborne radar platforms. When the United States Army Parachute Team appears at air shows, they’re jumping out of a Canadian-made de Havilland Twin Otter. De Havilland has also hooked up the Americans with some of its famously rugged prop planes for use in electronic warfare, remote cargo drops or simply moving National Guard troops around Alaska. All told, the U.S. military is flying more planes built in Canada than in any other foreign country.
The U.S. military’s only cargo drone (and it has the most Canadian name imaginable)
A U.S. special forces unit is pinned down on a remote Central Asian mountaintop. Surrounded by militants on all sides, it needs an emergency airlift of water and ammunition to even see daybreak. Enter the SnowGoose, an unmanned autogyro specializing in precision deliveries to special forces. The SnowGoose is the U.S. military’s only cargo drone, and it’s an all-Canadian creation. An emerging theme on this list is that Canada is great at building niche military hardware for cheap, and the SnowGoose is no exception. As the drone’s Stittsville, Ont. builders note, it can move cargo across a battlefield at a fraction of the price of other drones.
Uranium is a big part of the modern U.S. military. It has more than 100 nuclear-powered vessels in the navy, and there’s also those 7,000 atomic weapons it still has lying around. Canada has sold a whole lot of uranium to the U.S. military, going all the way back to the initial atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. However, the taps were somewhat shut off in the 1960s, when Canada started limiting uranium exports to “peaceful” purposes. Still, with Canada ranking as the United States’ top uranium dealer, we help keep their uranium topped up enough to have plenty left over for the military. Speaking of nuclear weapons, it might behoove the White House to remember that if a Russian or North Korean missile should happen to be fired in their direction, a Canada-based NORAD station will likely be among the first to let them know.
Making fighter jets last forever
This entry should fill thrifty Canadians with particular pride: We’ve gotten so good at squeezing every penny out of our CF-18s that we’re now globally renowned experts at fighter jet life extension. Among other things, Canada invented “robotic shot-peening,” a method of using robots to restore aging aircraft with a precision never before known. The technology has been exported to Europe, Australia and, in 2013, the U.S. Navy brought in the Quebec aerospace company L-3 MAS to give its jets a makeover.
Tactical radios are another niche technology in which Canadian companies have a built a slow but steady reputation with the Americans. In a 2017 reporton Canada/U.S. military industrial cooperation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies noted that the U.S. military has been using Canadian radios since the 1960s. Ultra TCS, headquartered in Montreal, remains a supplier of tactical radios to both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. And these aren’t just walkie-talkies; they’re hyper-advanced networks that can provide email, voice and even video hook-ups to American troops in battle.
That’s right. The Second World War-era Willys Jeep — one of the most American vehicles in history — was manufactured in part by Canada. Ford Motor Company of Canada churned out thousands of Jeeps after the Second World War. In 1952 alone, Canadian factories were making an average of seven of them per day. According to Ford Canada’s website, “these postwar Canadian-made Jeep were shipped to the United States, for the American military forces.”
DARPA is the U.S. agency tasked with pursuing military so cutting edge that they occasionally veer into outright science fiction. Last year, DARPA signed a deal with Canada’s MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates to design robots that could be dispatched into space in order to repair U.S. military satellites. And like most times Canada is brought in for U.S. military stuff, the robot space mechanic program is indeed intended as a cost saving measure. Canada has been a leader in space defence for some time. Our beloved Canadarm, in fact, technically qualifies as an early military space robot. Over the course of the space shuttle program 11 missions were sent up to perform classified work for the Pentagon. We still don’t know the specifics of what the Canadarm did for Uncle Sam on those missions, but the arm is a certifiable Cold Warrior.