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Canada's Leopard 2 tanks arrive in Latvia to bolster growing NATO mission

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The Canadian Armed Forces has completed its promised deployment of 15 Leopard 2 battle tanks to Latvia in an effort to create a combat-ready NATO brigade in Eastern Europe.

The squadron of Leopard 2 tanks arrived in Latvia on Nov. 10 along with a detachment of support personnel and equipment, a Department of National Defence spokesperson confirmed Tuesday.

The planned deployment was announced in June, when then defence minister Anita Anand said the squadron would strengthen the NATO alliance's deterrence capabilities against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Leopard 2A4M tanks and accompanying support vehicles were sent from Gagetown, N.B., and Edmonton. The full complement of 130 personnel required to operate the newly arrived tank squadron are not expected in Latvia until next spring.

In July, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Latvia, where he committed $2.6 billion to renewing and expanding the Canadian Forces mission to Central and Eastern Europe over the next three years.

The Department of National Defence says approximately 1,000 Canadian Forces members are currently deployed to Latvia, with plans to scale up the Canadian-led battlegroup to a full brigade with 2,200 Canadian service members by 2026.

"This operation is Canada's contribution to the biggest reinforcement of the alliance's collective defence in a generation, and Canada’s largest overseas mission, with up to 2,200 troops to be persistently deployed, more than double the current deployment," Trudeau said.

The prime minister reaffirmed that commitment Saturday, Latvia's national Independence Day, touting the two countries' shared ties and common values of "freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, as well as a mutual commitment to transatlantic security."

The Leopard 2A4M is Canada's most advanced battle tank.

The Canadian Army's fleet of variant Leopard 2A6M tanks is currently undergoing a modernization program to replace turret components, such as optics and fire control equipment, that will largely standardize systems between the 2A4M and 2A6M variants.

"This will provide the Canadian Army with a fleet of 40 modernized Leopard 2A4M CAN / 2A6M CAN main battle tanks that share common components and training requirements, while also improving availability and serviceability," Department of National Defence spokesperson Maj. Soomin Kim said in an email Tuesday.

"The 2A6M CAN will retain the longer 120mm L55 calibre gun, while the 2A4M CAN will retain the shorter L44 gun," Kim added.

A prototype of the converted Leopard 2A6M has already been tested, with the conversion of the remaining 19 tanks now underway in Bathurst, N.B. The work will also include repairing and overhauling mechanical components of the tanks, such as engines and suspension systems.

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