The federal government announced today that it has assembled almost $100 million in military aid for Ukraine — Canada’s biggest single donation of military equipment to the country since the start of Russia’s invasion.
The $98 million donation will include 20,000 155mm artillery shells — NATO’s standard artillery shell — fuses and charge bags, Defence Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday.
“Putin’s full-scale, illegal and unconscionable invasion of Ukraine cannot be allowed to succeed and it will not,” Anand said from the Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Victoria, B.C. today.
“Through military aid, economic assistance, humanitarian aid and strong political support at international forums, Canada will continue to have Ukraine’s back.”
The 155mm shells did not come from Canada’s military stockpile but were purchased for the donation, Anand said. The shells are compatible with the relatively new M-777 howitzers Canada donated to Ukraine.
CBC News reported last month that Canada had sent four M-777s to Ukraine’s military to help it face down a renewed Russian offensive from the east. The Department of National Defence has acknowledged the donation of M-777s but has declined to reveal the number of guns shipped to Ukraine.
The donation is part of $500 million in military aid to Ukraine announced in this year’s budget.
The Liberal government started rolling out the $500 million earlier this month with a $50 million donation of high-resolution satellite imagery, drone cameras and ammunition.
A light and mobile artillery gun
Since Russia began its war, the federal government has given Ukraine military equipment from existing Canadian Armed Forces stocks — such as the 100 Carl-Gustaf anti-tank weapon systems and 2,000 rockets donated in late February.
Retired lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie led the internal push at the defence department to buy the M-777 howitzers for use during the Afghan war.
Last month, Leslie said the M-777s donated to Ukraine amount to 10 per cent of CAF’s inventory and urged the federal government to quickly replace the donated equipment.
“That will have a 10 per cent ripple effect on the level of readiness and training in the Canadian Armed Forces,” he said.
The M-777 is a 155-millimetre towed howitzer. While it fires big shells, it was designed as an ultra-light gun by BAE Land Systems, Inc., a British arms maker, in the late 1990s.
The gun quickly became popular with the U.S. Army and Marine Corps and has been sold worldwide to a number of countries, most recently India.
Western armies like it because it’s ideally suited to the kind of light, mobile warfare that took place in Iraq and Afghanistan. The gun can be easily and quickly transported by air — either slung under a helicopter and moved around the battlefield or stuffed into a large transport plane for rapid deployment to other countries.