Military upgrading helicopter squadron home
June 27, 2011, Ottawa - The military is planning to spend $830 million on new buildings and infrastructure at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa over the next 10 years, according to documents obtained by the Citizen.
By Carey Fredericks
The CFB Petawawa "recapitalization" report, written in February 2010, outlines proposed spending at the Ottawa Valley base until 2020.
A big chunk of the spending – $284 million – is to prepare for the arrival of a new helicopter squadron, which will be operating Chinook choppers. That includes construction of a new heliport, fuel facilities, messes and communications centres.
But more than $530 million will be spent on new construction for other units at the base. Those include training quarters, facilities for light armoured vehicles, a new firehall and maintenance and paint facilities.
The army plan, obtained through the Access to Information law, notes that there are risks to the recapitalization of the base because of fluctuating budgets. But it also suggested that there is sufficient Defence Department staff in place to carry out the work and move the plan forward.
"Future announcements regarding infrastructure will be made in due course," the army noted in an e-mail to the Citizen.
Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet said the town is already seeing the effects of some construction at the base, particularly work on the new hangar for the Chinook helicopters.
"The construction trades are going to be very active over the next three or four years, so it's a mini-boom for us," said Sweet. "It's quite evident when you see the area."
Petawawa now has just under 16,000 people, he noted, but the arrival of 400 to 500 personnel for the new helicopter squadron will change that.
"It's a small industry that is coming to town, if you think about it," he explained. "That will increase the salaries coming out of the base substantially."
Sweet said two new schools are being built in the area, one costing $30 million, and the other $10 million. That is being driven by the need to serve military families, he added.
More construction is expected on the base, said Sweet, as permanent facilities are to be eventually built for the Canadian Special Operations Regiment.
Future construction plans call for roughly $225 million to be spent for buildings and other infrastructure for that regiment, according to Defence Department construction planning records. That figure wasn't included in the army recapitalization plans. The timing of that construction still has to be decided.
The new helicopter squadron, however, is one of the most high-profile expansion projects now under way at CFB Petawawa, Sweet said.
In December, politicians and senior military personnel attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the new hangar at the base, which will house the CH-147 Chinook helicopters. Fifteen Chinooks will be located at the installation.
EllisDon Corporation of Ottawa was awarded the contract for the hangar, valued at a little more than $134 million. The 50,000-squaremetre hangar will consist of five main areas, including maintenance bays and training schools for crews, as well as a warehouse and command suite. Construction is expected to be completed by the summer of 2013, according to the Defence Department.
To prepare for the arrival of the helicopters, the base will also need a new ramp, a refuelling facility and a fencedin parking area. According to a November 2010 briefing plan obtained by the Citizen, the military estimates that about 480 personnel will be assigned to the helicopter unit.
The first 118 military personnel will arrive in Petawawa next year. Another 185 will come in 2013, with the remaining arriving from 2014 to 2016.
The first Chinook will arrive in the summer of 2013 and be ready for operations sometime in 2014.
CFB Edmonton, Alta., CFB Bagotville, Que., and CFB Petawawa were in the running as the operating location for the new helicopters. Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk pointed out that Petawawa was chosen because it provides the best support to army and special operations forces, many of which are co-located there, while minimizing the associated infrastructure costs for the new fleet.
The Chinooks will maintain a high-readiness posture for rapid deployment, military officers have said.