"We hope to detect them but if we set them off, that's just as good," said Capt. David Holsworth, of the 5th combat engineer regiment, based in Valcartier, Que.
Those engineers will be at the wheel of the Husky, Canada's newest tool in the fight against an insurgent weapon that has killed more Canadian soldiers than any other -- the roadside bomb.
"A lot of those guys could have been saved if we had these earlier," Holsworth said yesterday, as engineers put the new vehicles through their paces in a field next to the Kandahar airfield.
"The section is really eager to get out there because they'll be saving their buddies' lives."
The Husky -- which looks like a road grader on steroids -- is meant to be blown up. Its armoured v-shaped hull deflects any blast away from the driver, who sits high up in a protected cab. Its four wheel are designed to be knocked off and quickly replaced.
"It's one of the best vehicles to survive a blast," Holsworth said.
It carries electronic and metal detectors to find buried bombs. It tows three trailers behind it, each with a set of wheels that will roll across a patch of road wide enough for other vehicles to follow safely in its tracks.
The Canadians had been relying on the Americans and their equipment to clear routes. But the Americans weren't available as often as the Canadians wanted so Ottawa decided to spend almost $30 million to buy the 16 new vehicles.
The Defence Department will also be taking delivery of the five Buffalos, which have a remote arm to uncover and disable bombs discovered in the road. The Cougars will carry remote-controlled robots and other devices to disable and destroy bombs.
"There's definitely a use for deploying these now," Holsworth said.
Meanwhile, Canadian military officials acknowledged there was an anti-Canadian demonstration in Kandahar City yesterday to protest the seizure of some Afghan homes. The officials added that Canadians did not witness the protest, and that neither Canadian nor other coalition troops had been involved in house seizures.
According to one news report, between 300 and 500 angry men shouted slogans against foreign troops in Afghanistan and blocked a key road for hours. They alleged that soldiers had killed an "innocent" Islamic cleric and his brother in the Taliban-dominated Zhari district, about 35 kilometres east of Kandahar City.