Minister Blair Announces Measures to Strengthen Canada’s Military Presence in Latvia 

The Minister of National Defence Bill Blair announced Canada is doubling its military presence on Operation Reassurance.  

The minister made the announcement while in Lavia with the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Wayne Eyre, where they were meeting with and thanking military personnel deployed on the Canadian-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Group in Latvia for their ongoing contributions to the security of Canada and allies noted a press release.  

Blair announced several measures to strengthen Canada’s military presence in Latvia to bolster the security of NATO’s eastern flank.  

Canada’s presence in the area will go from 1,000 troops to 2,200 by 2026.  Above image: Canadian Armed Forces members of NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia conduct a presence patrol during Operation FORTRESS in Viļāni, Latvia on 19 September, 2023. Photo by: Captain Joffray Provencher, eFP BG Latvia Public Affairs and Imagery Section, Canadian Armed Forces Photo.

From 1,000 to 2,200 Troops

“Starting in summer 2024, Canada will deploy four Griffon helicopters to the eFP Battle Group and periodically deploy Chinooks as well, starting fall 2025. This is the first time that Canada has persistently deployed tactical aviation capabilities to Europe since operations in Bosnia and Kosovo in the late 1990s and early 2000s,” announced the minister.  

Highlighting the July 2023 Roadmap to Scaling the eFP Latvia Battle Group to a Brigade, Canada’s presence in the area will go from 1,000 troops to 2,200 by 2026. 

“Through our deployment in Latvia – the largest current Canadian military deployment abroad – Canada is making a meaningful contribution to Euro-Atlantic security. The additional measures that I announced today will significantly increase the capabilities of the Canadian-led, multinational battle group in Latvia, further boosting NATO’s defence and deterrence posture. To all Canadian Armed Forces personnel deployed in Latvia: I thank you for your hard work to protect Canada and defend democracy, freedom, and the rules-based international order,” said Blair in the statement. 

Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, and the Chief of the Defence Staff were in Latvia Dec. 15, 2023, where the minister made the announcements. Above image: The Minister of National Defence, speaks to the members of Operation UNIFIER’s UK Training Element in the Southeast of England during a town hall with the troops on September 17, 2023. Photo credit: MCpl Nicolas Alonso, Canadian Armed Forces.

$15 Million in Infrastructure Announced 

The minister also announced $15 million in the infrastructure needed to scale up the current battle group to a brigade. The total investment is part of the $2.6 billion announced by the Prime Minister in July 2023, noted the press release.    

The investment included:  

  • 2.3 million euros for storage for Canada’s main battle tanks at Camp Adaži; 
  • 3.1 million euros to improve living conditions at the camp; and 
  • 4 million euros for accommodations and other supports at Ceri—the future headquarters of the multi-national brigade. 
  • Over 1 million euros to expand real-life support and workspace at Camp Adaži and Ceri. 

“Our investments in infrastructure and capabilities will help strengthen our mission significantly and ensure that our armed forces are better able and ready to defend NATO’s eastern flank. As a founding member of NATO, Canada is steadfastly committed to collective defence,” noted the press release.   

According to the press release, the modern anti-tank weapons will better equip Canadian soldiers to confront threats from adversaries’ main battle tanks. Above image: members of Duke’s Company with the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia, conduct an 84mm and M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon range in the training area of Ādaži Military Base, Latvia on December 26, 2018. Photo: eFP BG ROTO 3 LATVIA Imagery.

Portable Anti “X” Missle Contract  

The minister also announced Canada had finalized the procurement of Portable Anti-Armour Missile Systems for Canadian Armed Forces in Latvia.  

The procurement includes:  

  • missiles,  
  • simulators, and  
  • associated supports.  

“These modern anti-tank weapons will better equip our soldiers to confront threats from our adversaries’ main battle tanks, thus strengthening NATO’s deterrence posture,” stated the press release. “These weapons are being procured on an urgent basis after having been designated an Urgent Operational Requirement” in March 2023.  

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems was awarded the Portable Anti “X” Missle (PAXM) contract for USD 32.2M on behalf of the Department of National Defence. The first of the systems is expected to arrive by mid-2024.

The press release also stated this is the first time Canada has deployed medium-range radar capabilities. The medium-range radar is the first building block of the air defence capability for the Multinational Brigade. 

The radar will provide aerial surveillance for the brigade, as well as quickly and accurately identify air vehicles and munitions.  

The minister announced this upcoming summer, Canada will deploy four Griffon helicopters to the eFP Battle Group and periodically deploy Chinooks as well, starting fall 2025. Medivac Training Canadian Armed Forces members along with American and Polish Forces participate in medical evacuation training during Operation REASSURANCE in Adazi, Latvia on August 26, 2020. Photo: Corporal Zebulon Salmaniw, Canadian Armed Forces photo.

 Acquiring Air Defence System 

The press release added that Canada continues to work towards acquiring an air defence system for the NATO Battle Group in Latvia, which was also designated an Urgent Operational Requirement in March 2023.  

The Minister noted in the press release, “A Canadian Army Tank Squadron of 15 Leopard 2A4M tanks, along with supporting personnel and equipment announced in July 2023, recently arrived in Latvia as part of Operation REASSURANCE. The full complement of approximately 130 personnel should be in place by spring 2024. This deployment will significantly boost the eFP Battle Group’s military capabilities and demonstrates Canada’s commitment to implementing the Canada-Latvia Joint Declaration of June 2022.” 

Members of the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in a LAV 6.0 armoured vehicle prepare to leave their hidden location during the Integrated Capstone Exercise as part of their deployment on Operation REASSURANCE at Camp Adazi, Latvia, September 24, 2023. Photo by: Lieutenant Michael Kearney, Canadian Armed Forces Photo.

Framework Nation 

Since 2017, Canada has served as a Framework Nation for NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in Latvia, leading a multinational battle group composed of ten nations: Albania, Canada, Czechia, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. 

As a Framework Nation, Canada coordinates with Latvia and the contributing nations to help set the tone, pace, and vision for the eFP and provide support to facilitate integration as a single entity. 

 As an enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) multinational battle group in Latvia, Canada contributes:  

  • battle group leadership,  
  • command and control elements,  
  • a mechanized infantry company,  
  • an artillery battery,  
  • a combat support company,  
  • an electronic warfare troop, and  
  • a combat service support company. 

The press release noted Canada was the first G7 country to recognize the restoration of Latvia’s independence in 1991 and one of the first countries to ratify Latvia’s accession to NATO in 2004. 

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