Canadian Defence Review

 

June 19, 2012

 

Title: Cansec 2012 Report

Sub-title: Defence show lands new venue, sets attendance records.

 

In the weeks since last month’s CANSEC exhibition, participants have had time to assess the impact of the event’s move to a new venue, CE Center. Despite the inevitable hiccups inherent in such a major change, preliminary feedback has been good says Tim Page, president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries.

 

“It’s the biggest show we have ever produced,” said Page. “CADSI was delighted to offer a larger, purpose-built trade show center, and the results speak for themselves. Ten thousand people attended, compared to 8,500 last year, including participants from 17 foreign delegations, all Canadian provinces and larger contingents of US and European corporate leaders.”

 

The smell of dollars was in the air at Canada’s largest defence industry showcase, as 307 exhibitor businesses set up more than 400 booths in 120,000 square feet of indoor space and several available outdoor areas, showcasing their wares to better position themselves for bids on the slew of land, sea and air contracts slated to come on stream during coming years. As usual, parts of the conference resembled a swingers’ convention, as companies announced new teamings to tackle some of the larger projects.

 

Headway on FWSAR

The hot topic this year was the Department of National Defence’s search for Fixed Wing Search and Rescue initiative (FWSAR) capabilities, an initiative that has piqued the interest of a series of competing groups, several of which announced partnerships at the show. Although the Harper Government has been talking about upgrading the country’s FWSAR capabilities for almost a decade, the latest timetable suggests that it is expected to finally issue a request for proposal (RFP) this fall, and to select a contractor group by 2012.

 

Cascades Aerospace Inc. and Lockheed Martin for example announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would see the two companies cooperate to bid on new business, stemming from FWSAR and other initiatives related to the C130J Super Hercules transport aircraft.

 

Alenia Aermacchi, General Dynamics Canada, Provincial Aerospace and DRC also got into the FWSAR action announcing a letter of intent (LOI) to partner on a bid. They will have plenty of competition. Airbus Military is proposing its C295 transport and surveillance aircraft for the program, in a partnership expected to include Pratt & Whitney Canada, Thales, Discovery Air, CAE, L-3 Wescam and Vector Aerospace. Boeing (the V-22 Osprey), Bombardier (the Q400) and Viking Aerospace (a new generation of Buffalos) are also interested in providing FWSAR solutions.

 

Ambrose is “tired”

The conference’s tone was set up early by Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, one of the two major departments (along with the Department of National Defence) responsible for the lion’s share of the government’s sector procurement efforts. “We are very big. Sometimes we are slow, and we make you work very hard to get a contract,” said Ambrose, in response to industry grumblings in recent months, regarding incessant project delays, non-compliance declarations and outright boondoggles that have hit defence purchase procedures.

 

Ambrose to her credit though, at least had the guts to face the music, which is far more than can be said about Peter MacKay, the Minster of National Defence, and Walter Natynczyk, the country’s Chief of Defence Staff, both of whom ducked out on the event this year, likely to avoid additional media scrutiny, regarding the government’s mishandling of the Joint Strike Fighter purchases. Ambrose for her part, reminded industry stakeholders that, unlike private sector purchasing departments, Public Works, which is responsible for 55,000 procurement related transactions worth almost $17 billion per year, has more than just the bottom line to consider when awarding contracts.

 

“When we buy goods we must do so in a manner that enhances access, competition and fairness,” said Ambrose, adding that she was “tired,” of the duplication and multiple agendas inherent in the process. Ambrose concluded by saying that she is “fully aware of all of the internal obstacles to change,” and that she realizes that “we won’t be able to change the system overnight.”

 

For its part, CADSI took advantage of the event to release data which it commissioned KPMG to accumulate regarding the impact of Canada’s defence industry on its over all economy. Sector players the research found, created 109,000 full-time jobs in Canada, generate $12.6 billion in annual revenues and add $9 billion to the country’s gross domestic product.

 

Innovative training and simulation solutions

One increasingly prevalent defence industry trend in recent years has been the growing attention paid to the showcasing of modelling and simulation solutions, which proponents claim saves lives, cost less and lead to greater efficiencies in military operations. This year’s CANSEC offering continued that trend, with a variety of companies showing up to display their wares. For example NGRAIN, the 3D technology, software and solutions provider, which recently won a contract to sell the federal government counter-IED simulations tools, showcased the latest versions of its NGRAIN Virtual Task Trainer and Producer 5.0 solutions and introduced new additions to its COTS software line-up.

 

According to Sarah Grant, an NGRAIN spokesperson, the new Canadian government contract, which will include training tools for Buffalo and Husky mine detection and clearance vehicle personnel, comes on top of a slew of other CF initiatives, including production of an Air Brakes System Virtual Task Trainer.

 

In Bluedrop Performance Learning’s booth not too far away, Allen Dillon, its executive vice-president, (defence & aerospace), was also in a good mood, as he showcased the company’s latest offerings, and talked about its latest move into the French market, through a contract to produce French-language courseware for CAE.

 

One particularly popular attraction showcased by Meggitt Training Systems marketing manager Kendra Hathaway and other company personnel, was enhancements to the company’s FATS M-100 live weapons simulation system. Several training modes were demoed including marksmanship, judgmental video, traditional computer generated imagery and advanced reality training. Particularly impressive was one scenario which featured a simulated section patrol through an Arab (or Afghan) market. Infantrymen, who are armed with simulated rifles, face a variety of lethal threats, and unnerving events (which appear to be threats, but which are not).

 

In the simulation soldiers learn to keep their cool as vendors argue with and berate them, passersby eye them suspiciously or talk incessantly on cell phones, (which may or may not be IED detonators). Trainees also learn to identify dangerous situations and how to react. According to Hathaway, the major upgrade was the resizing of the systems architecture, which made the simulation particularly realistic, as if the soldier/trainees were actually there.

 

Traditional Canadian modeling and simulations technology leader CAE, which recently saw Gene Colabatistto, taking over from Martin Gagné, as group president (military simulation products, training and services) also announced a major move, this time in its push to offer increased support services.  The company will be partnering with Israel-based Elbit Systems to offer solutions for the Canada’s Integrated Soldier Systems Program (ISSP).

 

Under the deal, the team, which would also include L-3 Electronic Systems will offer Elbit’s Dominator-C technology, a small, light-weight, low power and highly integrated system, that allows soldiers to send and receive live target and mission data. According to Sophie Dupuis, spokesperson for the company, Gagné, who will be retiring after 16 years of service at CAE, has agreed to stay on as a consultant in order to “ensure a smooth transition,” and to support a strategic initiatives which he had begun to implement.

 

Enhancements, changes and contract wins

In fact, this year, as in most years, a slew of companies used CANSEC as an excuse to announce new products, improvements or upgrades. For example Ultra Electronics promoted improvements to its HCR ruggedized tactical high-capacity radio, which delivers data over long distances using point-to-point microwave wireless technology.
According to Emily Wehbi, a spokesperson for the firm, throughput bandwidth in the machines has broadened substantially to 400 Mbps.

 

Cassadian, for its part announced that the critical design review process phase in its contract with Defence Research and Development Canada, to design solutions to protect Canadian navy ships against asymmetric laser-based range-finder threats, has been completed. “The threat scenario confronting naval forces worldwide is constantly evolving,” notes Simon Jacques, the company’s head of Canadian sales. “Cassadian is (thus) proud to leverage our know-how and expertise to develop future laser detection and counter measure innovations.”

 

Not to be outdone, L-3 MAS and Northrop Grumman used CANSEC as a platform to announce their cooperation on a bid to sell a variant of the version of the Global Hawk that the latter company produces to the Canadian government for use in Arctic surveillance. According to Jacques Comtois, L-3 MAS’s vice-president and general manager, the company would be responsible for managing and maintaining the fleet of high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft systems.

 

Industry leaders also had an opportunity to demonstrate their social responsibility concerns as Oshkosh Defence initiated plans to help raise $10,000 to contribute to the True Patriot Love Foundation, which in turn has given more than $3 million over the past tree years to Canadian military personnel and their families. The company also figured out a way to get give show attendees a stake in the process, by agreeing to contribute $2 for everyone who came to sign a wall poster at its booth.

 

That said, while Page remains quite satisfied with the overall results of CANSEC 2012, he admits that there were some challenges. For example he promises that concessions stands will be improved to help cut wait times, for those who did not participate in the official meal functions. CADSI personnel were also unsatisfied with the number of bathrooms in the new facility, and have committed to thinking long and hard to find solutions there, as well as in boosting the available amount of private meeting areas.

 

“While space was limited, we were able to offer a room for B2B meetings which proved quite popular,” said Page. “We (also) ran out of parking areas at peak periods over two days, and we will do our best to encourage more people to use the shuttle service that we provide and to negotiate parking rights at adjacent federal government sites.”

 

Page notes that CANSEC 2013 is already on the minds of many participants. During next year’s show, CADSI hopes to attract static air and other displays at the Ottawa International Airport.

 

CANSEC 2013 will take place at the CE Center on May 29th and 30th, 2013.

 

Peter Diekmeyer (Peter@peterdiekmeyer.com) is Canadian Defence Review’s Quebec Bureau Chief.

 

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