By HELEN COLLIS, U.K. Daily Mail
The Canadian military is secretly testing a stealth snowmobile in its northern territories to enable troops to covertly operate in Arctic conditions.
Soldiers are testing the speed, acceleration, noise and battery endurance of the $620,000 machines, designed to be a silent hybrid-electric version of the existing gas-powered transporters.
Clues that the government was seeking to upgrade its Arctic warfare capabilities were revealed in 2011 when the National Defence's research and development agency posted a tendering document for a snowmobile machine that could quickly switch to 'silent mode' when needed.
The first tests with the new machines have been carried out in varying snow conditions at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, according to Canada's CBC News, comparing how the silent snowmobiles perform against their noisier counterparts.
Documents obtained under an Access to Information Act by the Canadian Press revealed the military have been using sound-meter readings to measure the machine's noise levels; they have been driving the snowmobiles at a steady speed across varying surfaces to test the batteries; and the buggy's acceleration on a 100m flat, snow-packed track has also been assessed.
It also revealed the new machine has been named the 'Loki' after a mythical Norse, shape-shifting god.
The report, quoted by CBC News, read: 'The prototype must be at least nearly as capable and reliable as a standard internal combustion snowmobile, while providing a significant noise reduction.
'For military purposes, it is not enough for a snowmobile to operate quietly.'
News that Canada is pushing ahead with plans to augment its military capabilities in the Far North comes at a time when defence spending has been reigned in to make way for measures to stimulate economic growth.
The National Defence said spending on Arctic mobility would be suspended for eight years, however, the stealth snowmobile project appears to have been protected, according to the news service.
The contract was originally set at $550,000 per snowmobile, but the Canadian Press obtained the document which shows a revised price tag of nearly $620,000. The winning bid came from Canadian firm CrossChasm Technologies.
While many details of the capabilities of the new military machine have been kept under wraps, news of its arrival have not been met with enthusiasm by all.
Michael Byers, a former federal NDP candidate who teaches international law at the University of British Columbia, told CBC News he questioned whether it was money well spent when the apparent threat of attack from the North seems negligible.
'I don't see a whole lot of evidence that criminals and terrorists are scooting around Canada's North on snowmobiles and that we have to sneak up on them,' he said.
'I can't help but wonder whether they've been watching too many (James) Bond movies,' he added.
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