What speeds quietly around the wintry wilderness of the great white north and costs $620,000? According to The Canadian Press, it's a stealth snowmobile, commissioned by the government's Department of National Defence (DND).
Few details about the sneaky snow cruiser are available to the public. Much of the information comes from a tendering document that was obtained through Canada's Access to Information Act. Much like documents processed by the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, the tendering agreement was heavily redacted.
What is known about the snowmobile is that CrossChasm Technologies, an electric and hybrid vehicle design firm based in Ontario, are the lucky recipients of the DND contract. Currently, it's nicknamed Loki, after the shape-shifting trickster god in Norse mythology.
From what the Canadian Press was able to gather from the redacted statement, the DND is making the snowmobile's silence a top priority.
"The noise level of an internal combustion engine cannot be reduced to an acceptable level for missions where covertness may be required," the Canadian government wrote in the agreement.
In addition to the original tendering agreement, the Canadian Press also received a document that confirmed that the military was testing out the snowmobiles at CFB Petawawa, an army base in Ontario.
"These experiments compared Loki against commercially available snowmobiles already in use," it said, "testing a wide variety of the snowmobiles' characteristics, including speed, towing capacity, endurance, mobility, usability, and of course, noise emissions."
Simon Ouelette, Loki's project manager at CrossChasm Technologies, was unavailable to comment about his work with the Canadian government. However, he told ABC News saying that CrossChasm Technologies has already made an electric snowmobile for American researchers in Greenland.
"That's where a good chunk of research on the ozone layer and greenhouse gas emissions comes from," he said. "To conduct that research, they need to have a completely clean air zone. Now that we've supplied them with a snow mobile, they can do more research at the remote location."
The stealthy snowmobile project fits in line with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's commitment to beefing up Canada's military presence. However, Michael Byers, a professor of global politics and international law at the University of British Columbia, doesn't think it's a wise investment.
"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," he told The Canadian Press. "I can't help but wonder whether they've been watching too many (James) Bond movies."
- the Canadian Press