General Dynamics: From Canada to the world

Sub-title: This Canadian defence industry giant is drawing on its Integrated Missions Systems expertise, and capabilities acquired from its work in the Aurora, Marine Helicopter and countless other programs to build its export base.


When armed forces stakeholders think about their industry, the visuals that often come to mind are mostly of hardware such as aircraft, ships, and tanks. However even more important these days, is timely information about friendly and hostile forces, which battle-space commanders need to help them optimally deploy their own assets.


One key provider of this technology is General Dynamics Canada. The company specializes in designing, producing and implementing Integrated Mission Systems (IMS), which Mike Greenley, its Vice-President (Business Development and Strategic Planning) defines as “multi-sensor Information Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) solutions, which, through a data management system, provide operators with a platform level situational awareness picture, which can then be communicated back to a command center.”


That may seem like a mouthful, but Greenley, who, as his title implies, oversees strategic direction and business development at General Dynamics Canada, has a lot to talk about. Responsibilities for market analysis, domestic and international sales and commercial services, give Greenley an excellent bird’s eye view into what is happening at the company, the defence industry in general, and in the Integrated Mission Systems world. 


General Dynamics Canada: an Integrated Mission Systems leader

Led by David Ibbetson, a veteran who has been with General Dynamics Canada since joining predecessor organization Computing Devices Canada, and who became the company’s general manager early last year, this vast division, which employs close to 2,000 people, is part of US parent General Dynamics’s IS&T (Information Systems and Technology) Group’s C4 Systems business. With sister company London Ontario-based, Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems, the organizations form one of Canada’s largest and most influential defence sector players.


General Dynamics Canada’s position in the rapidly evolving ISR world, where standards and capabilities can change overnight, naturally put Greenley in a constant pressure-cooker environment, though he betrays few signs of it. “There is an increasing market need among global armed forces to deploy multi-sensor platforms, such as day and infra-red cameras, radar, sonar and so on, linked by sophisticated communications and controls,” says Greenley. “However the boundaries are being pushed in each of those technologies. So we have to work hard to stay ahead of the pack. For example we have brought forward a new generation of managers, engineers and technologists to help pave the way.”


Air capabilities: Maritime Helicopter Project, AIMP

General Dynamics Canada has been in the naval, air and land forces mission systems integration business for more than two decades. During that time the company has built a reputation for being able to take on large scale complex mandates both in Canada and abroad.  One of the company’s most impressive wins was the perennially-delayed Maritime Helicopter Project contract, which it landed in 2004.  General Dynamics committed 400 employees to its work on the program, which includes selecting, purchasing, integrating and installing mission systems on 28 CH-148 Cyclone ship-borne helicopters, the first of which, the Department of National Defence will finally take delivery of in November.


However while the ISM development initiative is part of a sub-contract deal for Sikorsky, the platform’s prime contractor, much of the work is being done at General Dynamics’s Maritime Helicopter Program development site in Ottawa. The completed systems are then shipped out to Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach site and installed on the helicopters there. What is interesting about this arrangement is that is could serve as a model that General Dynamics Canada land mission systems learn from should it bid for work from the German government, which is in the midst of upgrading its own naval helicopter fleets.


General Dynamics is also a key supplier to the Canadian Air Force’s Aurora Incremental Modernization Program (AIMP). The company’s involvement with the program dates back to 2002, when it was awarded a contract to supply and install a new data management system into the 18 CP-140 long range patrol aircraft. Part of the work stemming from that bid includes integrating into the aircrafts mission systems, sensors such as radar, electronic support measures, acoustics, magnetic anomaly detection, as well as navigation and communication systems. General Dynamics will also supply a range of ground support equipment, such as training systems and in-service support. According to Greenley, the AIMP program is proceeding well. Flight testing is currently under way and final delivery should follow shortly thereafter.



General Dynamics Canada is also well positioned to help Canada meet its increasingly-pressing need for a modern, up-to data Unarmed Aerial Vehicle fleet to help patrol the country’s extensive borders and its tough Arctic environment. The company, which is partnered with General Atomics, maker of the Predator B drone, is a leading candidate to play a role in DND’s proposed Joint Unmanned Surveillance Target Acquisition Systems (JUSTAS) unmanned aerial vehicle program. As part of the partnership arrangement General Atomics would supply the hardware, and General Dynamics Canada will do any customization work required to fit the aircraft for the Canadian market, and will lead a multi-year in-service support program once the machines are delivered.


The UAV market is expected to see staggering growth during coming years. One analyst, Larry Dickerson of Forecast International recently predicted that 9,000 UAVs will be built during the coming decade, worth $18 billion. Although the Department of National Defence has been struggling to get adequate funding, experts say that eventually Canada will have to act, or else it risks being left behind.


Land Command Support Systems, Coyote LRSS upgrade

Of course General Dynamics Canada doesn’t just do work on air based systems. Two decades ago, the company was awarded the Tactical Command Communications Control Systems TCCCS IRIS contract, to provide the Canadian Armed Forces a seamless voice and data communications system. Since then the company has delivered more than 16,000 radios, millions of lines of communications and has trained thousands of service personnel in the use of those systems. General Dynamics Canada recently got a chance to build on that expertise after it was awarded a long-term support contract to provide continued support for the CF’s Land Command Support Systems, deal that will sustain 250 technical jobs in Canada.


Another promising medium-term opportunity for General Dynamics Canada lies in the venerable Coyote (LAV Recce) reconnaissance and surveillance vehicles, which experts say are now due for an upgrade. The Coyote comes with multi-sensor capability, from which an operators seated in the back of the vehicle develop local pictures of battle-spaces in a wide variety of theaters ranging from UN peacekeeping missions to Afghanistan.


The good news is that General Dynamics Canada, which supplied the multi-spectral surveillance systems, now installed in Coyote chasses, is thus an ideal candidate to supply the new required improvements. That said, although the company has responded to a DND Request for Information (RFI), for the LAV Reconnaissance and Surveillance System Life Extension (LRSS LE) program a formal Request for Proposal is only expected to be issued in the next year or so.


An export driven center of excellence

According to Greenley, fully half of General Dynamics Canada’s sales are derived from exports (to more than 20 countries) of products designed, developed and manufactured in Canada, a segment in which he continues to see major opportunities in. “Our goal is to leverage technologies and capabilities that were developed here, such as maritime helicopter and special mission aircraft know-how and to ship them around the world,” says Greenley.


As with many Canadian defence sector exporters, so far the lion’s share of General Dynamics Canada’s overseas shipments go to the United States, where the company sends Canadian-made computers and displays for most US Army vehicles, including Strykers, M-1s and Bradleys.


That said, Sweden, where General Dynamics Canada was selected as prime general contractor, system designer and integrator, for the Visby Class corvettes underwater suites, has also been a consistently promising export market for the company. Sweden, like Canada, is a rocky, northern country, with a long and sparsely defended coastline, in some of the most acoustically difficult waters in the world, which the Hydra corvettes are assigned to protect. The General Dynamics Canada-supplied underwater systems, perform anti-submarine and mine hunting missions both in the open ocean and in the Baltic Sea.


“The bottom line is that we believe that General Dynamics Canada offers an unparalleled value proposition,” says Greenley. “Because our mission systems include the use of open architecture, non-proprietary interfaces between components and commercial off-the shelf hardware, they are incredibly flexible and scalable. Our existing customers, such as the Canadian navy, which will be looking for suppliers for the 15 new surface combatant vessels that will add to its fleet over the next few years, appreciate that, which is why we feel that we have a particularly bright future ahead of us.”




Company snapshot


Name: General Dynamics Canada

Parent company: General Dynamics

Key contacts: Mike Greenley

Phone: 613-596-7000


Locations: Ontario (Ottawa, Kanata), Alberta (Calgary), Halifax, Nova Scotia

Products: Vetronics Systems, Air and Naval Systems, C3ISS. (Communications, command, control, and integrated sensor systems).

Number of employees: 2,000

Sales: $500 million







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