Title: Boeing Integrated Defence Systems: Ready for take off

Sub-title: Boeing already has a significant presence in Canada. But several new CF initiatives could see the company make major inroads in the years ahead.

 

Boeing is well known both as the world’s largest aerospace provider and for its role as a key partner to the U.S. Armed Forces. The company also has a long and prestigious history here in Canada, which dates back to the early 1900s when Bill Boeing flew some of the world’s first airmail on a run between Seattle and Vancouver.  What is less well-known is that Boeing’s Canadian presence could grow substantially in the coming years as several new DND initiatives come on-stream, particularly in the areas of strategic and tactical lift.

 

It’s an open secret that Canadian Armed Forces’ shortfalls in delivery capabilities could soon begin to imperil its ability to carry out key military and disaster relief missions, both domestically and internationally. Late last year, the federal government finally committed to equipping the CF with a modern tactical airlift fleet that can move personal and equipment quickly and efficiently. This will include a $4.5 billion commitment to procure at least 16 aircraft and to service them for 20 years. Canada is also studying various options for upgrading its helicopter lift capability.

 

According to Al Dequetteville, Boeing’s vice-president in charge of Canadian operations, the company’s C-17 transport and Chinook CH-47F helicopters are ideally suited to make a major contribution to solving these issues. “The challenges posed by the global war on terror are different than they have been in past conflicts,” says Dequetteville. “Today, the ability to deploy and act quickly is at a premium, because if you don’t, the enemy may no longer be there when you arrive.”

 

Boeing Integrated Defence Systems: A strategic partner to the U.S. military, with a big upside in Canada

Fortunately, moving equipment and personnel around quickly and efficiently, is one of Boeing’s Integrated Defence System’s (IDS) core competencies. The Chinook and the C-17, have long been battle tested workhorses for the U.S. armed forces and both are ideally suited for a variety of missions. These include force deployment in hostile territory, protecting civilians at risk in foreign lands as well as emergency preparedness and disaster relief. In fact Boeing offers a range of products designed to help modern armed forces do their jobs.

 

Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) unit, which accounts for more than half of the company’s $54.8 billion in revenues and 156,000 employees, is one of the world’s largest military contractors. Through its three business profit and loss centers, the group offers clients a vast array of weapons and aircraft capabilities, ISR systems, communications architectures and large scale systems integration expertise.

 

Boeing’s Precision Engagement and Global Mobility Systems group, includes tactical aircraft such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the F-15E Strike Eagle and the AV-8B Harrier II Plus. The division also produces anti-submarine warfare and ISR capabilities, the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) as well as helicopters such as the Chinook, V-22 Osprey and the AH-64 Apache Longbow.

Boeing’s Advanced Systems division produces the Joint-Unmanned Combat Air Systems and ScanEagle UAVs. The Support Systems division does maintenance modifications and upgrades.

 

Not surprisingly, Boeing also has a significant presence on the ground here in Canada. For one, company officials are overseeing the F-18 upgrade program, which is being sub-contracted to L3 Communication Systems, and its role could grow even further as the CF seeks to streamline its supplier base, through the Optimized Weapons Systems Support initiative.

 

Boeing Canada’s Technology Center’s 520,000 square foot Winnipeg facility manufactures close to 1,000 composite parts for the company’s 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 airplane models. In 2001 Boeing also acquired a small facility in Richmond, British Columbia that produces maintenance planning software. Annual sales last year were $370 million, all of which were exports.

 

C-17: A strategic lift workhorse

One of the areas that Boeing stands poised to potentially make a big impact is in strategic lift. Canada’s defence policy statement currently describes airlift as a key priority for the CF, with replacement of the ageing, increasingly unreliable and expensive-to-maintain Hercules fleet, as a key component in this initiative. There has also been a growing recognition of Canada’s need to acquire heavy airlift to support both the country’s increasing international commitments as well as its domestic operations. The question is how does the C-17 fit into the Department of National Defence’s plans?

 

Almost everyone agrees that the C-17 brings a lot to the table. Numerous recent crises such as the Gulf War of 1991, the Winnipeg floods, the Eastern Canada Ice Storm, as well as the Bosnia, East Timor, Haiti and Afghanistan conflicts have demonstrated the benefits of having outsized cargo deployment capabilities. In addition, numerous independent studies have validated the potential benefits of outsized cargo lift capability to the Future Vanguard Force (a Battle Group formation), the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and the Immediate Reaction Force.

 

With its ability to land on semi-prepared runways and its general flexibility and maneuverability on the ground, the C-17 has been described a tactical air-lifter with strategic range. “You can back it up and turn it on its axis,” says Dequetteville. “It needs very little ground support and the handling is great. It really is a versatile and transformational aircraft.”

 

One of the C-17’s most attractive features is its productivity, which in lift terms is measured in “ton-miles per day.” The C-17 is not the cheapest strategic lift aircraft, but it the most efficient in its class to operate. It carries four times the load of a Hercules C-130, including outsized cargo such as a Stryker vehicle with a fully loaded mobile gun system.  Its volume capacity is also impressive - it can fit four Griffon helicopters in its hold and still have room to spare.

 

The bottom line says Dequetteville is that the economics of the C-17 are so good, that a fleet of four aircraft bought using a lease-to-purchase option could be acquired at no net cost to DND. This would allow the CF to dispose of 12 to 13 of the oldest C-130s, thereby improving the reliability and productivity of the remainder of the fleet by allowing them to be employed in more tactical roles. “The C-17 is available today, its economics are great and it would make our forces interoperable with our main allies,” says Dequetteville.  “That’s an unbeatable combination.”

 

The CH-47F: “Not your father’s Chinook”

Many CF veterans recall fondly the days when the Chinook CH-47C helicopter was a staple of the Canadian military. Budget cuts forced the CF to divest itself of these durable machines in the early 1990s. But recent developments, are leading the Tactical Aviation Lift Capability (TALC) office to take a new look at the upgraded CH-47F, which Dequetteville says is “definitely not your father’s Chinook.”

 

The most obvious recent change has been the transformation of Western armed forces from their focus on large style conflicts, to the smaller operations needed to fight and win the Global War on Terror (GWOT), where speed and mobility are key competitive advantages. A clear demonstration of the Chinook’s usefulness can be seen in the fact that Canadian forces deployed in Afghanistan are renting several of them from the Dutch to help meet their immediate needs. But defence industry stakeholders acknowledge that this is just a short-term solution.

 

“There’s a real premium to being able to move your troops around the battlefield in new conflicts such as Afghanistan,” says Dequetteville. “The CF has just bought and equipped several units with howitzers that weigh 8,000 pounds. But you need lift capability to move them and none of our military’s existing helicopters can currently do that. The Chinook can. ”

 

General Hiller’s recent call for the formation of a new special operations unit, an initiative which was also highlighted in the recent defence policy paper, will also increase the need for a transportation capability to move these troops around. Having a readily deployable action force makes little sense unless you can get them where they are needed quickly.

 

Ironically, one of the Chinook’s most visible roles in recent months has not been in combat, but rather in disaster relief operations, ranging from the Katrina hurricane floods, to the Pakistani earthquake to the Tsunami relief efforts, in which video clips of Chinooks delivering valuable aid to refugees were broadcast around the world.

 

According to Dequetteville, the Chinook CH-47F, the model that the CF would be most likely to consider, has significant advantages over the older version used by Canadian forces in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The CH-47F is the result of a significant upgrade program. The new model flies at higher altitudes, costs about 1/3 as much to operate as previous models and offers a tremendous 4:1 lift advantage over its most likely direct competitors. Sophisticated air defence capabilities such as lasers and chaff can also easily be installed, to ready the Chinook for operations in treacherous combat areas.

 

Another piece of good news for Chinook proponents is that their price is coming down. The U.S. Army has ordered 450 F-model craft, which are now in the early stages of production. As a result, Boeing engineers have fine tuned production processes, which, combined with better returns to scale, have slashed almost 10 percent from unit production costs and have reduced production time from 36 to 30 months.

 

Tactical UAV, F-18 Modernization, precision guided weapons, OWSS

In addition to Boeing’s strengths in the high profile strategic and tactical lift areas, the company also has significant capabilities in other areas that will be emerging in the coming months and years. For example Boeing is participating in an ongoing program to upgrade the Canadian navy’s Harpoon ship-to-ship missile. Boeing officials also hope that the experience gained from its Joint-Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) X-45 and the low-cost ScanEagle, will position it for a piece of the action in the CF’s upcoming UAV initiatives.

 

The recent defence policy paper also called for the CF to acquire precision guided missile capability and Boeing’s JDAMs (Joint Directed Attack Munitions) used to such great effect in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, appear ready to fit the bill. DND officials recently toured the company’s St-Louis facility, where 56,000 JDAMs are produced each year. Boeing is also on the forefront of the CF’s Optimized Weapons Systems Support initiative through its provision of supply chain management solutions. 

 

In short says Dequetteville, Boeing has a bold present and a promising future here in Canada. “We want to build on our credibility and successes on the defence side with the CF-18 and its modernization program, and from our base on the commercial side as a supplier of choice to West Jet and Air Canada,” says the defence industry veteran. “And hopefully we will be a big part of the Canadian military’s plans for years to come.”

 

Sidebar: Boeing’s economic footprint

Boeing’s Canadian presence generates a sizeable economic footprint, worth more than $1billion, not including economic spin-offs from what economists call the “multiplier effect.” Boeing’s footprint is made up of two components. The first is the approximately $370 million worth of exports that originate from the company’s Winnipeg and Vancouver operational units.

 

In addition, Boeing purchases approximately $700 million worth of parts from a vast array of Canadian based suppliers such as L3 Communication Systems, Honeywell and Goodrich. It has long been Industry Canada’s policy to ask for a 100% offset when major defence contracts are awarded to U.S. based manufacturers. So for example, if the CF were to make significant Chinook or C-17 purchases, Canadian suppliers would be eligible (as direct offset Tier II suppliers) to bid on Boeing contracts, equal to the dollar value of the purchases.

 

Corporate Snapshot

 

Company: Boeing Integrated Defence Systems

Canadian Operations: Al Dequetteville, vice-president

Key Installations: Ottawa, Winnipeg, Richmond

Employees: 960 in Winnipeg + 70 in Vancouver and Ottawa

Products and services: weapons and aircraft capabilities, ISR. Communications architecture, systems integration

Exports: $370 million from Canada to the U.S.

 

Peter Diekmeyer (peter@peterdiemeyer.com) is a senior writer with Canadian Defence Review.

 

-30-

 

 

 

 

 

Home | Gazette articles | Eye on Ottawa | Book reviews

peter@peterdiekmeyer.com
  © 2005 Peter Diekmeyer Communications Inc.