Title: Trade show report: CANSEC

Sub-title: The Canadian Association of Defence and Securities Industries’ annual show, which moved to a new venue at Landsdowne Park this year, was bigger than ever.

 

Defence sector manufacturers, product developers and other key players gathered again late last month at CANSEC’s annual showcase of leading edge equipment and services. More than 225 defence sector companies, delegates from a slew of government departments and agencies, and even a smattering of protesters attended the event, which this year was moved to Ottawa’s Landsdowne Park.

 

“Attendance has been good,” said Tim Page, CADSI’s president, in a brief chat at the event site. “Pre-bookings were up by about 5.0 percent from the 6,500 that came during 2008. So we are doing well.” During the event CADSI released an estimate that defence and security industry’s economic impact includes jobs for more than 70,000 Canadians, who generate $10 billion a year in military and security sales.

                              

Not surprisingly, with all of the DND, governmental and assorted industry big-wigs on-site, many companies used the visibility provided by CANSEC to highlight various initiatives and successes. For example Pratt & Whitney announced that one of its affiliates – Hamilton Sunstrand, which is a key supplier on the F135 engine which Pratt expects to supply as part of the F-35 Lightning II program, - placed what eventually could be a $48 million contract with Ottawa-based GasTOPS Ltd. The contract is to supply fan eddy current sensors, which are a key part of the prognostic health monitoring system that monitors the structural health of engine fan blades.

 

For its part, Boeing Canada also announced $25 million in contracts that will be awarded to Canadian firms as a result of Industry Canada’s Industrial and Regional Benefits “dollar for dollar” policy. Boeing is a major contributor to the Canadian economy, generating close to $1 billion in business annually, a considerable part of which is offsets, tied to government purchases of Boeing equipment. The IRB contracts announced by Boeing at CANSEC were related to a government order for small unmanned aerial vehicles (SUAV) services given to Boeing subsidiary Insitu. Among the winners are of the Boeing contract were Ottawa-based ING Engineering, for UAV services, MKS, for software consulting services and Calgary-based NovAtel, for precise GPS systems.

 

Not to be outdone, General Dynamics Canada, in partnership with Thales Canada, also elbowed their way into the spotlight; announcing the return of two vehicles to the Canadian Army, which had been retrofitted its with System Release 2 (SR2) – which is an update to the Army’s current Land Command Support System (LCCS). The improved SR2 network and communications devices are slated to be installed on the first 40 of a series of Light Armoured Vehicles starting this summer. The remainder of these vehicles are scheduled for conversion in 2010.

 

Some of the smaller defence sector providers were also quite creative in attracting attention. For example, British Columbia-based NGRAIN, which provides interactive 3-D equipment simulation solutions that boost the effectiveness of training programs, managed to pull in a totally disproportionate share of eyeballs to its booth by showcasing an interactive application that showcases how to assemble and disassemble an AK-47 rifle.

 

Use of these old Soviet-era armaments is widespread in Afghanistan, which has adopted the weapon for its own armed forces. Canadian personnel, are using the NGRAIN application to assist in training Afghan recruits how the rifle works. NGRAIN, which has been growing by leaps and bounds also announced that it will be opening an Ottawa office, which will accommodate business development staff, as well as project management, design, customers support and a variety of other capabilities.

 

Of course not all of the announcements were business related. For example BAE Systems highlighted the increased focus among many defence sector players towards increased corporate and social responsibility initiatives, by announcing the donation of $10,000 to the Canadian Military Families Fund.

 

Enhanced commitments towards streamlining procurement

Also on display at CANSEC this year were a variety of innovations to help Canada’s defence forces, first responders, firefighters, police and coast guard personnel. In fact, some of the most interesting products were Canadian. For example Ottawa-based Neptec Design Group, showcased a laser-based system that helps pilots “see” through sand and sandstorms, which normally blind their vision. The system is also effective in Canadian winter conditions. A special blast seat protection, which helps protect against IEDs as well as offering cooling capabilities, designed by Allen Vanguard in Ottawa, was also showcased.

 

High visibility events like CANSEC always attract their share of political big-wigs and this year’s version was no different. Prominent among them was Canada’s Minister of National Defence Peter McKay, who initiated proceedings with a key-note address in which he promised to address a key industry bug-bear: the government’s equipment purchasing regime. “We understand your frustration with the bureaucratic process of procurement,” said McKay. “Believe me, it sometimes frustrates me too.”

 

McKay promised that DND and related departments and agencies would study measures such as bundling purchases and increased consultations with industry early in the game, -- before the contracting stage begins, --  that could be taken to improve the process. For example the government is addressing all of the Army’s fighting vehicle requirements as integrated program of capabilities rather than as a bunch of separate projects.

 

But McKay also cautioned that there was no single magic bullet. “Given the complexity and costs involved – we need to have checks and balances in place to ensure best value for taxpayers’ and the maximum benefit to Canadian industry and jobs.”

 

Another key defence sector stakeholder, Tony Clement, Canada’s Minister of Industry also got his word in during a later presentation. Clement talked about his efforts to ensure that Canadian firms benefit from long-lasting high quality business opportunities related to defence sector procurement. Clement reiterated McKay’s commitment to early involvement of industry in the procurement process and cited the Soldier Systems Technology Roadmap, which encourages web-based online industry collaboration ad exchange, as an example of how that can work.

 

Peter Diekmeyer is Canadian Defence Review’s Quebec bureau chief.

 

 

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