Canadian Defence Review

 

June 2011

 

Title: CANSEC 2011 show report

Sub-title: Industry players assemble to peddle their wares.

 

The CANSEC trade show was a big success again this year. Close 9,000 defence sector buyers, military personnel and business folk jammed Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park to peddle their wares, check out the latest technology, form alliances and partnerships, catch up on industry gossip and meet up with old friends.

 

CANSEC is a good bellwether of Canada’s defence sector’s strengths. As such, the rise in the both the number of indoor booths (from 250 to 260) and outdoor displays (from 15 to 24) is a good indication that things are going particularly well. This year, companies are under more pressure than ever, jostling to get a piece of the slew of new Department of National Defence procurements, or offset work stemming there-from, expected during the coming years. “It’s been quite active,” admits Tim Page, president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, which put on the show. “We are particularly happy with the strong ratio of industry participants to high level defence department clients and government buyers who showed up.”

 

Improvements in government procurement

The event’s keynote addresses were delivered by General Walter Natynczyk the Chief of the Defence Staff and Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, who highlighted developments in procurement initiatives during the past year, such as the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, which she says has led to “unprecedented access to subcontracting opportunities for Canadian companies.”

 

Ambrose also cited the announcement of a training contract for 15 new Chinook helicopters and the government’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, which she hailed as “the single largest procurement in Canadian history,” as well as her department’s progress in improving purchasing times, which she claims have been cut in half.

 

Another CANSEC theme again this year was the global nature of the arms business. “I have been travelling non-stop for four weeks,” said Martin Bennett, Managing Director, Europe and the Americas at BAE Systems.  “We are busy everywhere. Despite the fact that countries, such as Great Britain are cutting back defence spending, many others including Canada, Australia, and India are more than making up for the short fall. There’s tons of business out there.”

 

Selling their wares: TAPV

Helping exhibitors get some of that business has long been CANSEC’s main raison d’être and this year was no different, as global sector players jostled to either sell stuff to Canada’s Department of National Defence, or to announce partnerships to try to.

 

One such initiative is the Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle program (TAPV), which has attracted a slew of bidder teams led by major players such as Textron Systems, BAE and Force Protection. For example Oshkosh Defence, a major supplier of heavy, medium and light tactical vehicles for the US army, showcased several platforms that contain features that will figure prominently in its Canadian TAPV and Medium Support Vehicle System (MSVS) bids.

 

“We have been working with DND for many years to fully understand the capabilities that soldiers and the Canadian government require from the MSVS and TAPV programs,” said Serge Buchakjian, the company’s senior vice-president and general manager of international programs. “The platforms on display have proven performance in extreme environments including Afghanistan and are thus ideally suited to meet Canadian needs. “

 

In addition to its existing international achievements, Oshkosh is basing its TAPV proposal on manufacturing capabilities at its London Ontario-based London Machinery Inc. subsidiary, which currently produces concrete mixer trucks and a partnership with General Dynamics Land Systems, which would provide in-country sustainment support in the deal.

 

Textron Systems, another of the seven pre-qualified bidders for the TAPV contract, which recently announced that it was opening an Ottawa office to more effectively compete, also displayed one of its vehicles at the show.

 

Showing off new innovations

This year again, a slew of companies came out of the woodwork to use CANSEC as a platform to showcase new innovations. One such player was Ultra Electronics which announced the launch of UltraMove, a communications platform that delivers wireless hotspot, on-the-move IP services, including voice, data and video capabilities.

 

The system is designed to bridge the communications between battalions, brigades and then to company level, and can be used virtually anywhere, though it is particularly useful in the outskirts of military networks and in disaster areas, says Joseph Hickey, the company’s vice-president (business development and marketing).

 

According to Hickey, Ultramove, which is deployed in a portable transit case, facilitates the use of handheld devices and portable computers which are being increasingly used in modern battlefield conditions due to their “decreasing cost, small footprint, and overall usefulness in receiving and uploading mission-critical data.”

 

UltraMove was recently tested in military exercises and the results were promising said Hickey. “The system provides the best balance of capability, footprint, portability and cost for the number of different kinds of mission that it can support,” said Hickey. “UltraMove will ultimately enhance soldier and first responder effectiveness by improving their communication within challenging operational environments.”

 

Calgary-based Novatel also made an appearance at CANSEC to talk up their GATJ-700ML single enclosure GPS Anti-Jam Technology, which provides low cost anti-jamming protection for land-based vehicles.

 

According to Paul Stiles, Novatel’s director of OEM sales, the system is so small and economical that it can be used and will fit on almost any vehicle. The system, which mitigates interference by creating nulls in antenna grain patterns, is ideal for retrofitting, compatible with legacy GPS receivers and can provide protection in a variety of multi-jammer scenarios.

 

New partnerships

Of course new product and technology announcements weren’t the only development results being released at CANSEC. This year, as always, the show provided an excellent platform for companies to talk about their new alliances and pairings to bid on various pieces of government work. For example BAE announced that it would be partnering with DEW Engineering and Thales Canada to provide delivery and in-service support for its proposed TAPV solution, the RG35 Reconnaissance, Patrol and Utility Vehicle.  

 

Under the agreement, DEW would “provide design services, add-on armour and vehicle assembly.” In-service support, would include vehicle repair, field service support, technical publications and material support.  Thales would be the Combat Systems Integrator in the grouping and would be responsible for Vehicle Electronic Architecture for the entire combat suite throughout the life of the program. BAE and Dew Engineering are also working together on Canada’s Medium Support Vehicle System (MSVS), which will be comprised of a new fleet of medium-sized logistics trucks for both the regular and reserve forces.

 

L-3 Electronic Systems also announced a partnership with Israel-based Elbitt Systems. The pair will market a broad range of electronic devices, reconnaissance systems, communications devices and other “cutting edge technologies,” under the Canterra Solutions brand name says Garrick Ngai, marketing manager with L-3.

 

“It’s a good fit,” says Ngai. “The Israelis are well known for producing some of the best equipment that the world has to offer, and we can back them up with our in-service support, manufacturing and project management capabilities.”

 

Not to be outdone, CAE and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems also announced a partnership agreement, to propose the latter’s Predator drones, as a solution for Canada’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) needs. According to Chris Stellwag CAE’s director of marketing and communications, the company’s experience in the operation and maintenance of large fleets of manned aircraft, modelling and simulation technologies and in-service support solutions, make it the ideal Canadian partner for the venerable US Unmanned Aerial Vehicle manufacturer.

 

Stellwag also commented on CAE’s recent announcement of its partnership agreement with Force Protection to bid on the TAPV program, calling it “promising.” Under the deal CAE would be charged with providing in-service support and with assembling a pan-Canadian team to develop and support country specific requirements for 600 patrol vehicles.

 

Of course as good as CANSEC was this year, things are slated to get even better in the coming years says Page, starting new June when it moves to Uplands CE Center. There show participants will get access to 150,000 square feet of uninterrupted heated and air-conditioned space.

 

“Lansdowne did its job for the past few years,” said Page. “But now it’s time we moved on.”

 

Peter Diekmeyer (Peter@peterdiekmeyer.com)

 is Canadian Defence Review’s Quebec Bureau Chief.

 

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