In 2008 Canada abruptly switched from favouring the US produced Predator drone, to favouring the Heron drone produced by Israeli Aerospace Industries. A purchase was made of the use of Heron surveillance drones for deployment in Afghanistan. The drone program was managed by IAI’s Canadian partner, MacDonald Dettwiler.
According the the Medicine Hat News, the Heron drones are owned by MacDonald Dettwiler, which provides surveillance services on a lease basis to Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, at a cost of $95 million. Recently, one of the drones was badly damaged in a mishap at Kandahar airfield.
The program conducted its first flight on 26 January, 2009 at Kandahar airfield. It is a two year contract, with an option to extend the contract a further year. (Which would take it one year past the deadline for Canada’s departure from Afghanistan-ed).
MacDonald Dettwiler has other contracts with DND relating to remote sensing, military traffic management, and communication.
The continuing privatisation of Canada’s military operations raises a number of concerns. Private corporations need to grow to prosper and retain investors, which means that they constantly lobby for more business, which increases pressure for continued militarisation. Private companies can increase earnings by skimping on the quality of what they provide, so there is pressure to reduce quality. Overseers and regulators are often in danger of being compromised by their closeness to the private operators. This is particularly a problem with the military, since military procurement is often secretive, and the government and military justify secrecy on the basis of national security.