November 21, 2012: Canada has ordered upgrades for another of its 66 LAV III wheeled armored vehicles. These 66 will be equipped for reconnaissance as was its predecessor the LAV II Coyote. This vehicle went to Afghanistan a decade ago and proved enormously useful by doing long range surveillance of Taliban and al Qaeda suspects. The Coyote reconnaissance system mounted on a wheeled armored vehicle. The recon gear consists of a nine meter (30 foot) telescoping mast that contains a Doppler radar, laser rangefinder, thermal imaging sensor, and video camera. The mast mounted sensors can see clearly out to 15 kilometers and identify targets (day or night) for artillery or air attack. The radar can spot targets out to 24 kilometers but can only distinguish vehicle types (wheeled, tracked) beginning at about 12 kilometers.
The main enemy in Afghanistan was al Qaeda and Taliban fighters who obtained shelter from local warlords, tribal leaders, or gang leaders. Any of these big shots would be hanging out in a walled compound, usually out in an isolated area (so no one can easily sneak up on the place). The Coyote sets up on a distant hill and uses its long range sensors to track who, and what, enters and leaves the compound for days, or weeks. This usually provides confirmation of which bad guys were in there or, at times, when they are driving out to do some mischief. If the former, troops raided the place and arrested the suspects. If the latter, airpower was called in and people on the ground gave the gunmen a chance to surrender or die.
The Coyote was originally conceived as an inexpensive replacement for air reconnaissance. But the ability of a Coyote vehicle to stay in one place and carefully track movements over a wide area for days or weeks proved very useful for intelligence work. Five years ago Canada began a $5 billion to upgrade and expand its fleet of LAV III wheeled armored vehicles. Over the last decade Canada has replaced its 1980s era MOWAG and older LAV II vehicles with the locally built LAV IIIs. Canada donated many of the older wheeled armored vehicles (mostly 11 ton Grizzly personnel carriers) to nations performing peacekeeping duties.
The LAV III is a 17 ton vehicle mounting a 25mm autocannon, plus two machine-guns. It has a crew of three and can carry seven passengers. The LAV III design was the model for the American Stryker. Canada now plans to have 616 upgraded LAV IIIs and has also exported LAV IIIs to New Zealand and Saudi Arabia. Although Canada obtained more heavily protected MRAP trucks for troops in Afghanistan threatened by roadside bombs, the LAV IIIs were still seen as suitable for many combat missions. The LAV III upgrades will make the vehicles more resistant to roadside bombs and mines, as well as adding more electronics and defenses against missiles. Canada expects to continue using LAV III type vehicles for another two decades.