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$704-million upgrade for navy’s ‘R2-D2’ rapid-fire war ship guns

The rapid-fire “R2-D2” guns that protect Canada’s war ships from attacks by missiles, aircraft and smaller boats will get $704 million worth of upgrades and maintenance over the next 20 years.
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HMCS Charlottetown returns to Halifax on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. The rapid-fire “R2-D2” guns that protect Canada’s war ships from attacks by missiles, aircraft and smaller boats will get $704 million worth of upgrades and maintenance over the next 20 years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The rapid-fire “R2-D2” guns that protect Canada’s war ships from attacks by missiles, aircraft and smaller boats will get $704 million worth of upgrades and maintenance over the next 20 years.

The federal government awarded a 10-year support contract Friday to Ottawa-based Raytheon Canada Ltd., with renewal options that extend the deal to 2037.

National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who announced the contract at CFB Esquimalt, said the Close-In Weapon System — affectionately known as R2-D2 because of its design — has the ability to defend the navy against advanced weaponry.

“With its powerful rapid-fire gun and sophisticated targeting computer, it can defeat attacks from land, sea and air,” Sajjan said.

“It is the last line of defence for the backbone of the Royal Canadian Navy — the Halifax-class frigate.”

The guns will also be installed on the Protecteur-class supply ships when they enter service, said Sajjan.

“As such, a vital part of the defence of our ships, CIWS has to be kept in top condition.”

Raytheon, which has been maintaining the 21 guns in the navy for the past 10 years, is expected to employ more than 450 people across the country under the latest contract.

One of the main tasks will be replacing some of the obsolete components in the radar system that guides the guns.

Commodore Buck Zwick, who commands the Canadian Fleet Pacific, described the guns as a “world-class” weapon system that can “automatically search, detect, evaluate, track and engage and destroy a wide range of today’s air and surface threats.”

The guns, which are currently used by 24 nations, can fire more than 4,000 rounds per minute and create a defensive “wall of fire” against high-speed incoming threats.

Zwick said the Canadian navy has never had to use the guns to counter an actual threat.

“On other occasions by navies around the world, it has been required and it has been successful,” he said.

lkines@timescolonist.com