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Canadian Forces Vehicle Project – LAV III Upgrade Project – Oct 2011/Jan 2016

The Canadian Army's LAV UP 'Re-Set' – the LAV III Upgrade Project
Improving the Breed: Upgrades for the LAV IIIs
In June 2009, DND announced the LAV III Upgrade Project. LAV UP was to "capitalize on existing and evolving technology to improve the protection, mobility and lethality of  the LAV III  fleet". At the time, the project start was to be in Spring 2011 with the first LAV UP delivery to the Army in late 2011. But the LAV UP contract was not announced until Oct 2011. That $1.064B contract covered upgrades to 550 LAV IIIs with options on a further 66 (out of 80 available). The option was exercised in Nov 2012.

Experience in Afghanistan had led to the LAV Operational Requirements Integration Task or LAV LORIT program. Under LAV LORIT, 141 LAVs were given an upgrade package in the form of an IED Protection Kit (IEDPK) which featured belly armour, turret crew shields, and an air sentry parapet. LAV UP rationalized those improvements while raising overall performance. At a glance, LAV III and LAV UP differ little. The raised engine bay deck is one obvious change on LAV UP.

The original LAV III powerplant (a 350 hp 7.2 L Caterpillar 3126 6-cyl) was replaced by a 450 hp Cat C-9 diesel. Despite displacing 9.3L, that C-9 is, physically, not much larger than the 3126. Cryptic mentions were also made of  "a more powerful... transmission" presumably Allison's HD4560P. Under that raised engine deck is a larger coolant radiator and its cooling fan. [1]

A July 2009 DND news release on LAV UP listed a weapon system 'upgrade' without details. From this, it might be assumed that  LAV UP would receive a new, larger-calibre main gun akin to that specified for another DND project, the Close Combat Vehicle. But not so. The CCV Project ultimately failed and the turret-armed LAV UP vehicles retain their original 25 mm M242 Bushmaster main guns. So no gun calibre increases for the LAV UP.

The original LAV III 25mm M242 may see detail improvements but  the calibre remains unchanged. [2] The vehicle's turret crew ergonomics and capabilities will be upgraded by incorporating larger hatches; improved fire control; thermal-, day-, and low- light sights; and data displays.  In the main, LAV UP changes have to do with added armour protection or the running gear changes needed to cope with the resulting weight increase and the ever-increasing combat loads carried by these vehicles.

Among the apparent armour changes are new 'air sentry' shields (left) replacing the current Exposed Crew Protection Kit. Hatches for the gunner and vehicle commander are now in a raised 'box' on the turret top (below, right). Other changes not apparent in the released images are a 'double-V' shape in the rear hull to deflect blast effects away from the crew compartment (derived from US Stryker upgrades ). Crew protection was also improved with the addition of more Energy-Attenuating Seats. Little attention has been paid to LAV UP despite covering at least 616 armoured vehicles. General Dynamics refers to LAV UP as the LAV 6.0.

While LAV UP was a 'reset' program for existing LAV IIIs, the LAV 6.0 is offered for export as newly-built vehicles. That is where the LAV 6.0 has garnered some unwelcome attention. Back in 2013, the Harper Conservatives agreed to export substantial numbers of  new LAV 6.0s to Saudi Arabia. With the Saudi's appalling human rights record back in the news, the new Liberal government finds itself left holding the bag on LAV 6.0 exports. This has no direct bearing on LAV UP but may have a lasting impression. [3]

[1] The larger radiator and fans were dictated by the larger-capacity C-9's greater cooling requirements but  LAV III Afghan deployment will have also influenced cooling choices.

[2] Rather bizarrely, DND asked vehicle manufacturers to recommend calibres choices for the Close Combat Vehicle main gun (resulting in submissions of  35mm, 30mm, and 25mm guns.

[3] As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Dion has been handling this file. Dion quickly condemned recent Saudi executions but insisted that the LAV 6.0 export to Saudi Arabia would not be cancelled, saying "What's done is done". That may come back to haunt Dion.

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