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Former fighter pilot named Canadian military chief


Ottawa : Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced that Lieutenant-General Thomas Lawson has been appointed Canada’s new chief of the defence staff, the country’s top military post.

Lawson, who assumed the position of deputy commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado, the US, only last August, will succeed General Walt Natynczyk, who held the post since July 2008, reported Xinhua.

Lawson will be promoted to the rank of general and take command of the Canadian forces in the coming weeks.

He is the “right leader” for Canada’s military, said Harper in a statement.

In introducing Lawson to reporters at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Defence Minister Peter MacKay praised the new top solider as an “exceptional and dynamic leader”, who has “the respect of his peers, the admiration of his subordinates and our allies, and the complete confidence of both the prime minister and myself”.

A 1979 graduate of the Royal Military College in Ontario, which he would later head as commandant, Lawson served as commanding officer of an air squadron and flew two different fighter jets during his 37-year career with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

“Whether at home or abroad, our men and women (in the forces) reflect the best that Canada has to offer,” said Lawson, the father of two sons, who are also RCAF members.

MacKay said that Lawson assumes his new role “at an important time within the Canadian Forces’ history … of continued adjustment and defence transformation to the needs of our times and of the future, be they among the vast horizon on the Arctic tundra, in the military training schools of northern Afghanistan, or on the seas and waterways near and far.”

Lawson will also have to deal with the military’s planned purchase of Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth jets that are intended to replace the aging CF-18 Hornet fighter jets.

Earlier this year, Canada’s Auditor General, who oversees federal government spending, criticized the Department of National Defence for not running a fair competition into the F-35 purchase and warned the aircraft could cost 25 billion Canadian dollars ($25.25 billion), nine billion more than the cost estimate for the US-led project.