The Royal Canadian Air Force hopes to pull the trigger on the purchase of new armed drones within six years of using nearly two decades of emphasis on various options.
The Canadian forces have been working since the early 2000s to identify and purchase a fleet of UAVs capable of overseeing Canada's vast territory and support military missions abroad.
But apart from buying a small number of temporary, unarmed drones for the war in Afghanistan – all of which have since retired – the military has never been able to make much progress on a permanent fleet.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Air Force Commander Lt-Gen. Al Meinzinger said he is confident that it is changing after the Trudeau government officially approved the purchase of a fleet of armed UAVs through its defense policy.
This decision was one of the most remarkable shifts in the new policy released in June 2017, which included a pledge to spend an additional $ 62 billion over the next 20 years to expand and strengthen the military.
No former federal government had allowed to add drones – armed or not – as a permanent fixture within Canadian forces in the same vein as fighter jet or helicopter squadrons.
"We say we have a political cover, which means we can see the program clearly in our defense policy," said Meinzinger. "So we are moving this project forward … It will be an ability we will see in the next five to six years."
The Royal Canadian Air Force has stylishly assessed the opportunities and will soon present its ideas to purchasing representatives, he added. The plan is to buy a type between height, long-term UAV for the military.
Drones have taken an increasingly important role in military around the world; A report in the Royal Canadian Air Force Journal at the end of 2015 said 76 foreign military used them and another 50 developed them.
The unmanned aircraft is often used for surveillance and intelligence gathering as well as providing precise air strikes at enemy forces, where power use has been approved.
Nevertheless, the government's decision to acquire armed drones has raised questions from some arms control and human rights groups that have raised concerns over the legitimate gray area around such weapons.
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government was carefully considering the drone decision, critics have noted that there are very few rules on their acquisition and use – also in murder.
Meinzinger said drones showed their worth to the Canadian forces during the war in Afghanistan, where he personally commanded a UAV squadron to monitor the surrounding landscape.
Regarding the government's decision to approve armed drones, "the employment of these weapons certainly will be within the bounds of the law of armed conflicts and very clearly regulated," he said.
Defense Chief Gen. Jonathan Vance has previously said that the Canadian military plans to use armed drones in the same way as other conventional weapons, such as fighter jets and artillery.
While acknowledging the long road that the military followed in trying to get drones, Meinzinger said: "We have the support of the management and department to continue moving it forward. So I can't see it as a problem at all."