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LAV I Armoured Vehicle General Purpose (AVGP)
Cougar / Grizzly / Husky

In the mid-1970s the Canadian military was in the market for a wheeled armoured vehicle. As there was no domestic source at the time, a worldwide competition was held. MOWAG, a Swiss company with a vehicle called the Piranha, felt that licensing a Canadian company to manufacture the vehicle would not only make business sense, it would also enhance their bid. After surveying a number of Canadian companies, they selected Diesel Division to be a licensed producer of their vehicle for Canada. This choice was based principally on our technology for production of locomotives and off-highway trucks, in particular our ability to fabricate steel and assemble large locomotive products and automotive products on a high-quality, custom-built, low-volume basis. In 1977 that culminated in a contract to Diesel Division for 350 vehicles, an order that eventually grew to 491, known as the armoured vehicle general purpose, or AVGP. These were the first armoured vehicles being produced by Canadian plants since the Second World War.

In 1977 Canada begin the legacy of the six-wheel LAV fleet by placing an order for 491 6x6 LAVs which the customer referred to as Armoured Vehicle General Purpose (AVGP). This particular contract established a new plant with a state-of-the-art capability in cutting, welding, and machining ballistic steel, in addition to the capability of assembling and testing the vehicles. There were three variants of this vehicle built. The first variant, the Grizzly, was an infantry carrier, the second variant, a Cougar, had a 76 mm turret and was used by Armour Corps forces and the final variant, the Husky, was a recovery vehicle. Canada has deployed this vehicle operationally to such areas as Cyprus, the Balkans and Somalia. Although the majority of the AVGP fleet has been retired from operational service, Canada has loaned a number of vehicles to the African Union where they were used operationally in Sudan.

In early 1966, the Defense Minister Paul Hellyer was apprised of Mobile Command's equipment deficiencies. On that list was the "General Purpose Armoured Vehicle." Hellyer was told: "In every UN security operation inwhich Canada has participated,there has been a real need for a wheeled armoured vehicle of sufficient size to carry troops and equipment through lightly held areas and at the same time is capable of creating the appropriate impressionon the local population."

Mobile Command decided that the two air-mobile brigade groups needed the capability to support the UN in addition to being able to conduct lower intensity operations on NATO's periphery. If they were to do so, it was argued, there were maintenance considerations that increased costs if tracked vehicles were so employed. Others thought this was nonsense and lobbied to deploy M113 Lynx, instead of wheeled vehicles, to places like Cyprus. This was a continuation of the Second World War "tracks versus wheels" debate which persists to this day. The argument made for the wheeled General Purpose Armoured Vehicle was that "patrolling is the predominant activity in peacekeeping. This patrolling is continuous, and on a scale far greater than in actual warfare." A study revealed that the costs for using M-113A1 and Lynx vehicles in the same roles as wheeled recce vehicles was ten times greater due to overhauls.

Trials were conducted to determine which vehicle was most suitable. The winner was the Cadillac Gage V-100 Commando, which had been in service with American forces in Vietnam since 1964 in a counter-insurgency role. For reasons that remain obscure, the 120-vehicle V-100 purchase never occurred, even though it was approved by the Pearson Government.

The 1971 White Paper directly questioned the need for a MBT: "The Government had decided that the land force should be reconfigured to give it a high degree of mobility needed for tactical reconnaissance missions in a Central Region reserve role. The Centurion medium tank will be retired since this vehicle is not compatible with Canada-based forces and does not posses adequate mobility. In its place, a light, tracked direct-fire support vehicle will be acquired. . . . This vehicle, which is air-portable, will be introduced later into combat groups in Canada. The result will be enhanced compatibility of Canadian and European-based forces and a lighter more mobile land force capable of a wide range of missions."

The first two vehicles to undergo trials were the tracked Scorpion (76 mm gun) and wheeled Fox (30 mm gun). Cabinet decided in 1973 that Scorpion was not for Canada. Trials proceeded with Fox pitted against the Cadillac Gage V-150, a V-100 with a turret mounting a 20 mm gun, then the trials were opened up world-wide to meet the requirement for the Armoured Vehicle General Purpose (AVGP). Cadillac Gage resuscitated the V-150, Brazil submitted the EE-11 Urutu, while France fielded three vehicles: the Panhard M4, Berliet 4 X 4 VXB, and the Saviem Vehicle de l'Avant Blindé. Switzerland's Mowag company displayed the 6 X 6 Piranha, which was formally selectedin March 1976.

The first two generations of LAV were produced by GM Diesel Division in London, Ontario under an agreement with the Swiss firm MOWAG. In the late 1990s, GM bought MOWAG and with it the rights to the family of vehicles. More recenltly, the GM Defence plant was bought by General Dynamics Land Systems. The plant continues to produce second and third generation LAVs along with a number of other armoured vehicles.

The Cougar is the primary armoured fighting vehicle for Reserve armoured units, and is currently undergoing a life extension refit. A total of 195 Cougars were originally procured to equip Regular and Reserve armoured units. Following the acquisition of the Coyote as a part of the 1999 Army Equipment Rationalisation Plan, the Cougar fleet was reduced to 100 vehicles - to be exclusively employed by Reserve armoured units. The Cougar fleet is currently undergoing a service life-extension program to increase its reliability, supportability and commonality with the Bison and Coyote fleets. The program also includes the replacement of the obsolete RADNIS image intensification sight by the M36E4+ sight, which is an improved version of the Grizzly image intensification sight.

The Grizzly's original role was an infantry section carrier. With the procurement of the LAV III, the Grizzly is also being life-extended and re-rolled into support variants for LAV motorized units. These variants include Personnel Carrier (52), Command Post (80), Radio Relay (10), Unit Access Nodes (20), Very Short Air Defence (24), Artillery Gun Tractor (18) and Mobile Repair Team (70).

The Husky will be life-extended and will continue to be used as a maintenance and recovery vehicle for the Wheeled Light Armoured Vehicle Fleet.

After the conflict arose in Sudan's Darfur region in 2003, the African Union took the lead in both the peace process to resolve the Darfur conflict and in deploying personnel to monitor the situation. The African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) was established in July 2004 with a mandate to monitor the ceasefire and provide security to civilians in the region. Canada loaned 105 armoured vehicles, provided training and maintenance assistance, and personal protective equipment in support of AMIS. The 100 "Grizzly" general purpose armored vehicles and five "Husky" armoured recovery vehicles were used by AMIS troops from Nigeria, Rwanda and Senegal.

  • 76-mm L23A1 gun, [fires HESH, Smoke BE (base ejected), and Canister rounds]
  • 7.62 mm machine gun (C6)
  • 66-mm smoke grenade launchers (2 clusters of 4 launchers)
  • Grizzly
  • .50 cal heavy machine gun or
  • 7.62-mm machine-gun (C6) and
  • 66-mm smoke grenade launchers (2 clusters of 4 launchers)
  • Husky
  • 7.62-mm machine gun (C6) and
  • 66-mm smoke grenade launchers (2 clusters of 4 launchers)
  • Length: 5.97 m
    Width: 2.50 m
    Weight: 11.0 t
    Crane capacity: 4536 kg
    Winch capacity: 8000 kg
    Maximum speed: 100 km/h
    Engine: 275 hp Detroit Diesel 6V53T two-cycle turbo-charged diesel
  • Cougar - 3 (Commander, gunner and driver, 2 soldiers in rear of vehicle)
  • Husky - 2 (Driver and technician)
  • Grizzly - Maximum of 5, depending on role
  • Entered service: 1976
    Number in service: [2009] Cougar - 100, Grizzly - 274, Husky - 27

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    Page last modified: 17-01-2017 19:42:55 ZULU