Canada to spend billions on military strategic-lift planes

Canada said Thursday it will spend C$8.3 billion (US$7.4 billion; Ђ5.9 billion) on 21 new aircraft, the latest in a series of defense spending announcements totaling C$15 billion (US$13 billion; Ђ10.6 billion) the Conservative government made this week.

Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor said the planes will be used to carry heavy cargo or large groups of soldiers long distances.

"If we hadn't moved on this project, and moved now, the capacity of the Canadian Forces to provide tactical airlift beyond the year 2010 would have been almost eliminated," O'Conner said.

The C$8.3-billion is the fourth funding announcement this week for the Canadian military.

On Wednesday, O'Connor said at least C$2 billion (US$1.7; Ђ1.4 billion) would be spent to purchase 16 military helicopters. On Tuesday, he outlined plans to purchase 2,300 new high-tech trucks, and on Monday, unveiled a C$2.1 billion (US$1.9; Ђ1.5 billion) plan to build three navy supply ships.

Last week a senate committee on defense commended the new Conservative government for addressing years of military neglect, but said in a report that Canada was far from spending enough on defense and unprepared for acts of terrorism or natural disasters.

In one of its annual reports that reviews Canadian security and defense, the Senate Committee on National Security and Defense noted Ottawa currently spends $343 (US$308; Ђ244) per capita on its armed forces, compared with $1,733 (US$1,557; Ђ1,230) in the United States and $903 (US$812; Ђ577) in Britain.

In May, Canadian lawmakers approved a two-year extension of the nation's military mission in Afghanistan. Canada has 2,300 soldiers in southern Afghanistan, reports AP.