What would it be like to glide across a flat expanse of snow at high speed while making hardly any noise? Well, Canada's military is spending about $600,000 on a stealth snowmobile to find out.
Canadian troops tested the hybrid-electric prototype designed for clandestine Far North ops and evaluated its noise, acceleration, and battery endurance, according to the Canadian Press (CP).
Dubbed "Loki" after the trickster Norse god, the snowmobile is too top secret to be photographed. It was put through trials in February at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa in Ontario.
"These experiments compared Loki against commercially available snowmobiles already in use, testing a wide variety of the snowmobiles' characteristics, including speed, towing capacity, endurance, mobility, usability, and of course, noise emissions," says a military report that was acquired by CP under the Access to Information Act.
Waterloo, Ontario-based CrossChasm Technologies, which specializes in developing hybrid, plug-in, and electric power trains, is reportedly developing the quiet ride.
Loki is part of a larger Canadian emphasis on asserting itself in the Arctic as melting ice makes natural resources there increasingly attractive and accessible. But as this diagram shows, rival territorial claims to the region leave it looking like overlapping jigsaw-puzzle pieces.
Some Canadian observers have dismissed the snowmobile as a boondoggle.
"I don't see a whole lot of evidence that criminals and terrorists are scooting around Canada's North on snowmobiles and that we have to sneak up on them," Michael Byers, an international law professor at the University of British Columbia, was quoted by CP as saying.
Referring to defense officials, he added, "I can't help but wonder whether they've been watching too many (James) Bond movies."