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Defence Minister Blair announces drone supplies to Ukraine

Feb 22, 2024 | Canada, Featured

Minister Bill Blair announces donation of SkyRanger R70 drones to Ukraine, at UNF Toronto Hall on February 18. Photo: NP-UN

New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

On February 18, UNF Toronto’s Hall at 145 Evans Ave. in Etobicoke, ON, hosted the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, who announced that Canada will donate more than 800 SkyRanger R70 multi-mission Unmanned Aerial Systems to Ukraine. Minister Blair was joined for this announcement by James Maloney, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore; Yvan Baker, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke Centre; representatives of the drone maker Teledyne; and Ukrainian-Canadian community leaders.

The more than 800 drones, valued at over $95 million and sourced from Teledyne FLIR in Waterloo, ON, have automated and autonomous navigation systems, enabling them to carry various camera systems and payloads to detect and identify targets. These capabilities will help Ukrainian operators to recognize individuals, vehicles and any heat source from a long distance, especially in dark conditions and poor weather. The multi-rotor can handle a variety of payloads up to 3.5 kilograms, including munitions.

Blair said the particular drones bring “a utility that I think significantly enhances their capabilities, particularly with its ability at some altitude to detect, and to gather information that can be very useful as they defend their country.”

According to Minister Blair, Canada is working with Ukraine on a training plan and delivery schedule, with delivery expected to begin this spring. “They’re in a hurry, and so are we,” Blair said at the announcement.

Anne Bulik, Teledyne FLIR’s vice-president of unmanned systems North America said at the press conference the company has already started production on the units. “I’m expecting late March, early April would be the timeline that we will be able to deliver on,” she said, with the full order being delivered over the next year.

This donation is funded by the $500 million in military assistance for Ukraine announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his visit to Kyiv in June 2023. Canada previously donated 100 high-resolution drone cameras to Ukraine, and in the past two years has pledged $2.4 billion in military assistance, part of $9.7 billion in total assistance to Kyiv.

Blair announced last week that Canada was contributing an additional $60 million to help Ukraine’s allies supply F-16 fighter jets to its fighting forces and train Ukrainian pilots.

Earlier, on February 18, Blair concluded a trip to NATO Headquarters in Belgium and Munich, Germany. During his trip, the Minister participated in the 19th Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG) meeting and a meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels, Belgium. Minister Blair then attended the 60th Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany. During his trip, Minister Blair emphasized Canada’s steadfast solidarity with Ukraine, unbreakable commitment to NATO, and support for the rules-based international order that underpins global security.

“As Russia continues its unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine, it is vital that NATO Allies and partners from around the world work together to protect the rules-based international order. Our work over the past few days will help to preserve the international rules that keep us all safe, and strengthen international support for Ukraine. In today’s rapidly evolving security environment, Canada will remain a strong contributor to security in the Euro-Atlantic region and around the globe,” he said.

On February 14, Minister Blair announced that Canada will make a contribution of $60 million to the UDCG Air Force Capability Coalition. This donation will support the setup of a sustainable F-16 fighter aircraft capability in Ukraine by sourcing vitally needed F-16 supplies and equipment such as spare parts, weapons stations, avionics, and ammunition.

On February 15, Minister Blair participated in a Meeting of NATO Defence Ministers and announced that Canada is acquiring new capabilities for its troops in Latvia. Canada is investing $227.5 million with Saab Canada to acquire the RBS 70 NG Air Defence System and $46 million to acquire new counter-drone equipment. These new capabilities will start to arrive this year and will be deployed with Canadian Armed Forces members in Latvia, where Canada leads NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group.

At NATO HQ in Brussels, Minister Blair held meetings with:
• NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Minister Blair reiterated Canada’s unbreakable commitment to NATO and support for Ukraine – and highlighted that Canada’s defence investments are set to increase by over 70 percent, continuing the upward trajectory.
• Germany’s Defence Minister Boris Pistorius. Minister Blair and Minister Pistorius discussed the countries’ close collaboration to support Ukraine, and the leadership of both Canada and Germany in contributing to the security of NATO’s Eastern Flank by leading enhanced Forward Presence Battle Groups in Latvia and Lithuania respectively.
• Latvia’s Defence Minister, Andris Spruds. Minister Blair provided an update on new Canadian procurements to better equip the Canada-led Battle Group in Latvia, and the Ministers discussed the plans to expand the Battle Group to a brigade.
• Defence Ministers Hanno Pevkur of Estonia; Boris Pistorius of Germany, Andris Spruds of Latvia, Arvydas Anusauskas of Lithuania, and Grant Shapps of the United Kingdom. The six Ministers discussed the ongoing expansion of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence on its Eastern Flank, where Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom lead multinational battle groups in the Baltic countries.
• Czechia’s Defence Minister Jana Černochová. The two Ministers signed a Canada-Czechia Defence Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding, which will establish a framework for cooperation and outlines how Canada and Czechia will work collaboratively to strengthen our relationship in several bilateral and multilateral areas – including support for Ukraine.
• Sweden’s Defence Minister Pal Jonson. Minister Blair reiterated Canada’s support for Sweden’s accession to NATO without delay, and welcomed Sweden’s intention to contribute troops to the Canadian-led NATO battle group in Latvia.
At the 60th Munich Security Conference, Minister Blair participated in a roundtable discussion on Arctic Security in Times of Contestation and continued bilateral and multilateral discussions with his counterparts. Minister Blair attended meetings with:
• The Cohen Group, where – alongside General Christopher Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe – the Minister reiterated Canada’s commitment to the NATO Alliance and rules-based international order in the face of current and emerging threats.
• Allied and partner Defence Ministers at a working luncheon hosted by German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius and the German Federal Ministry of Defence.
• Denmark’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen. Minister Blair thanked the Deputy Prime Minister for Denmark’s contribution of troops to the Canadian-led Battle Group in Latvia and expressed gratitude for Denmark’s leadership of the UDCG Air Force Capability Coalition. Minister Blair and his counterpart expressed interest in further developing Canada-Denmark defence cooperation as NATO Allies and fellow Arctic nations.
• United Kingdom Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps. Minister Blair and Secretary Shapps condemned the Houthis’ attacks in the Red Sea and Russia’s ongoing, illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. Minister Blair and Secretary Shapps discussed the strong Canada-U.K. collaboration to support Ukraine through the U.K.’s Operation INTERFLEX and Canada’s Operation UNIFIER, and also discussed security issues in the Indo-Pacific.

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