The Canadian Army’s new armoured vehicles have been plagued by rollovers and fires, the latest in a series of problems to affect the $600-million fleet.
Since April 2014, there have been 10 incidents when Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicles have tipped on to their sides, six where they have rolled over completely, and four where they have caught fire.
Pat Finn, the assistant deputy minister in charge of procurement at the Department of National Defence, told Postmedia there have been no serious injuries as a result of the incidents. But the problems are not the first to hit the Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicles or TAPVs.
The TAPV program has “experienced a number of significant technical issues, particularly affecting vehicle mobility,” then-defence minister Rob Nicholson was told in August 2014. There have been problems with the suspension, steering and other items on the vehicle, according to a briefing document released under the Access to Information law.
The technical issues significantly delayed the test program for the vehicles, the document added. “These accumulating incidents, which relate to the vehicle’s ability to travel distances on medium cross country terrain, led the project office to conclude the existing testing could no longer continue.”
The Conservative government announced the TAPV contract in 2012 as part of its re-equipping of the Canadian Army. Canada bought 500 TAPVs from Textron, a U.S.-based defence firm, at a cost of $603 million. The TAPV is a wheeled combat vehicle that will conduct reconnaissance and surveillance, security, command and control, and armoured transport of personnel and equipment.
Finn said as a result of the various incidents further quality assurance tests are being done. “It’s kind of high off the ground so it can be more agile,” he explained about the vehicle. “(But) it brings with it a high centre of gravity.”
“It may be it’s about training and understanding the vehicle,” Finn added.
None of the vehicles have been written off because of the incidents, according to the Canadian Army. “Upon review of the major TAPV incidents, it has been identified that the most common contributing factors of these incidents tends to be human error due to limited familiarity time operating the vehicles,” the army noted in an emailed statement to Postmedia.
The army pointed out that investigations into the incidents did not reveal any design or mechanical faults. “Primary reports on the majority of these incidents (rollover and tip-overs) were attributed to a combination of factors, such as operator experience, the vehicle’s high centre of gravity, weather conditions, and/or vehicle speed,” the email noted.
It’s kind of high off the ground so it can be more agile
The army did not provide any explanation for the four fires on the TAPVs.
The army noted that it is considering limits on the speeds the vehicles can operate at as well as “rollover hazard mitigations” and “recommendations such as the use of new technology to enhance experience for new drivers and crew.”
The army did not provide further details on those new technologies or initiatives.
The TAPV project will cost taxpayers a total of $1.2 billion, which not only includes the vehicles but also includes the building of infrastructure to house them, as well as the purchase of ammunition and service support for the equipment.
The initial problems with steering and other issues delayed the delivery of the vehicles. After those were dealt with, the army had to contend last year with concerns about brakes and the distance the vehicles needed to stop. The TAPV is a heavy vehicle and requires longer stopping distances at higher speeds than most new drivers are familiar with, noted DND spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier in July 2018.
The fleet of TAPVs have been distributed across seven bases and 24 units throughout Canada. The Canadian army has said it expects to declare full operational capability by mid-2020, following training of all operators. TAPVs were first deployed in spring 2017 to assist communities affected by the flooding in Quebec.