Canadian Defence Review

 

November 24, 2012

 

Title: Provincial Aerospace looks to boost defence presence

Subtitle:  This ISR, maritime patrol and aerial surveillance specialist sees new opportunities in FWSAR, Arctic patrol, exports.

 

Spurred by projected federal procurement and melting polar ice caps, which are opening a northwest shipping passage and facilitating resource development in Canada’s Arctic, the region is attracting increased defence sector interest. One company that stands to benefit is Newfoundland & Labrador-based Provincial Aerospace Limited, which over the years, has become an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance leader.

 

Founded in 1972, and led by Gus Ollerhead, its president and owner, Provincial Aerospace Limited focuses its efforts in several areas. In addition to airborne maritime surveillance services which it delivers through ten manned and unmanned aircraft that it owns and operates (including five Beechcraft King Air 200s, two Dash8s and three UAVs), the company also brings to the table more than 25 years of experience modifying marine patrol aircraft, in more than 30 countries.

 

Provincial Aerospace Limited which has grown from 800 to 900 employees during the past two years, also provides operator training, environmental services (such as ice monitoring) and does significant export work ranging from operating aircraft in the Caribbean to training pilots and aerospace personnel in the Persian Gulf.

 

That said, Keith Stoodley, the company’s senior vice-president (business development and government relations) is far from satisfied. “We have tremendous capabilities and an aggressive team,” says Stoodley. “So we are constantly looking for new opportunities both in Canada and internationally.”

 

A Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue partnership

One of the most lucrative potential opportunities for Provincial Aerospace stems from Canada’s Fixed Wing Search and Rescue program, which according to Derek Scott, its vice-president (program development) is inching steadily ahead. In the middle of last year, Provincial Aerospace announce its intention to partner with Alenia Aermacchi, General Dynamics Canada and DRS Technologies, to bid on the Department of National Defence’s initiative to replace aging CC-115 Buffalo and CC-130 legacy Hercules aircraft, currently being used in this vital function.

 

The teaming leverages impressive competencies and talents. These include Provincial Aerospace’s aircraft modification, integration and operations experience and its maintenance, repair and overhaul knowhow.  The aircraft proposed, Alenia Aermacchi’s C-27J is thought to be one of the most capable, cost-effective search and rescue solutions on the market. General Dynamics for its part would supply in-service support. Provincial Aerospace executives feel that they have assembled an optimal team. “We have logged more than 155,000 mission hours flown in the harshest terrain, weather and conditions, so we can handle anything they throw at us,” says Scott, a 25-year company veteran, who is not shy about talking up the benefits, the group’s involvement would bring.

 

“The team’s decision to modify and missionize the aircraft in Canada brings a unique opportunity not only to Provincial Aerospace but also to Canada’s aerospace industry,” says Scott. “In addition to the ISS benefits inherent in the FWSAR procurement strategy, our approach will result in new high value aerospace and defence industry jobs for Canadians that we have not seen in a long time. These skill sets are applicable domestically and internationally for export and are complimentary to aircraft OEM missionization needs elsewhere in the world. For that, we are highly supportive of the procurement process the government has put in place for an open, fair and transparent competition.”

 

The question right now is where things will go from here. As Scott notes, Public Works and Government Services Canada in particular has said that it is making preserving the integrity of the solicitation process a priority. However as with all defence sector procurements, timings remain up in the air. Initial industry day consultations on the project were held more than three and a half years ago. However discussions go back even farther. Public Works and Government Services Canada held its latest industry day in October of last year and has been providing potential suppliers with Request for Proposal Information since last summer. Contractor selection is targeted for 2014. 

 

Export capabilities: UAE is an excellent export showcase

During the past two years Provincial Aerospace has also positioned itself nicely to boost its overseas exports. The company already has bases in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. However if all goes according to plan, that could increase in coming years, as a result of its recent work on a showcase $400 million contract to design, modify and integrate two Bombardier Dash-8 Q300 maritime patrol aircraft for the United Arab Emirates.

 

According to Roger Mombourquette, the company’s senior vice-president (aerospace operations), the aircraft, which are designed to patrol the United Arab Emirates territorial waters, monitor pollution, and support search and rescue operations, were delivered on time and on budget in March and May of 2012.

 

“It was our largest contract ever,” says Mombourquette. “The aircraft were equipped with aerial surveillance and SAR capabilities, as well as with the ability to provide special missions operations and alternate service delivery (ASD). Here is a country that did not have any effective marine patrol capabilities and we are helping them get started.”

 

Provincial Aerospace primed the program with major subcontractors including Thales, Rhode & Schwartz International, Saab and Elettronica. Aircraft modifications will include Tier One integration of equipment suites including avionics, 360 degree maritime radars, forward looking infrared systems, night vision and photography capabilities, anti-submarine acoustic systems and signals intelligence. Provincial Aerospace Limited also supplies communications and data acquisition and managements systems to distribute that information.

 

Custom training solutions

The United Arab Emirates also turned to Provincial Aerospace to provide support training for 54 pilots and mission systems operators, much of which took place simultaneously with the upgrades. The company has a unique approach to what it considers one of its core competencies. Its professional instructors are all former military veterans that have an average of 25 years of experience in their respective fields.

 

They teach using a modular custom-designed curriculum that ranges from basic theory to advanced techniques and analyses, including crew interaction and voice culture. Common elements include a training needs analysis, aircraft drills, simulations and training missions, as well as the supply of documentation and continuous support.

 

According to Mombourquette, the United Arab Emirates search and rescue program included 30,000 combined hours of training. Sessions began in early 2011 and included lessons in radar, FLIR, tactical command, acoustics operations, electronic warfare, as well as even some English courses, for those not proficient in the language. “It was a huge job because they had virtually background on Dash-8s nor any search and rescue experience,” concludes Mombourquette. “Not only was it a pleasure to work with the Emirates, it was great resume builder. Many countries have similar needs and we want to help them too.”

 

From ice monitoring to Arctic sovereignty

Another significant capability that Provincial Aerospace could leverage in coming years, is its experience conducting doing marine patrol work in Canada, as well as its ice monitoring and other work in the country’s northern regions, says Mombourquette. This includes providing ice management support, iceberg detection, environmental observation and reporting, oceanographic data measurements and weather forecasting.

 

Melting polar ice is making the vast resources thought to be located in Canada’s Arctic regions increasingly accessible. The United States Geological Survey estimates that about 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil could lie north of the Arctic Circle, much of it on what Canadians regard as their land.

 

“Global warming will also likely cause a corresponding increase in icebergs which we already track on an ongoing basis,” notes Mombourquette. “We have many years of experience in detecting dangerous formations. Additional mandates would be a natural fit for us.” Those stakes will rise even further if that melting ice eventually clears a northwest shipping passage for several months each year, as many expect. If Canada wants to maintain sovereignty and keep track of the rusty oil tankers that will eventually trying to push their way through the country’s pristine northern waters, potential threatening coastlines with disastrous spills, those areas will need to be monitored.

 

Making the situation even more complex, is the fact that many countries refuse to acknowledge Canada’s sovereignty. That’s true even of our closest ally, the United States, which sends ships and submarines through the region at will. Yet while our southern neighbor has agreed to let Canada know when they do that, not all countries are so committed.

 

Increased patrols and monitoring are key

In short, if Canada wants to assert its claim to the northern region, it will need to establish a presence and enhance its patrols and monitoring of the area. That’s where Provincial Aerospace comes in. The company already does considerable marine patrol work here in Canada. Missions range from fisheries surveillance, pollution monitoring, search and rescue and the enforcement of fisheries and environmental law. However it is the company’s work in the identification of foreign vessel in Canada’s waters, that could be most affected by the melting icecaps over the long-term.

 

While much of the maritime patrol work that the company has been doing for Fisheries and Oceans Canada since 1986 is not directly defence related, the opening of the polar ice regions, which would significantly boost traffic in the area, could gradually change that.

 

“PAL is setting its sights higher,” says Mombourquette. “We used to brag that we were active from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans so we were “coast-to-coast.” However with the rising importance of Canada’s North we now think of ourselves as “coast-to-coast-to-coast,” adding the Arctic, as operational area.”

 

 

Highlight these quotes:

 

“We have tremendous capabilities, and an aggressive team that wants to leverage them.”

Keith Stoodley, vice-president (business development and government relations).

 

“We used to brag that we were active from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans so we were “coast-to-coast.” However with the rising importance of Canada’s North we now think of ourselves as “coast-to-coast-to-coast,” adding the Arctic, as operational area.”

Roger Mombourquette, vice-president (operations and training)

 

“We have logged more than 155,000 mission hours flown in the harshest terrain, weather and conditions, so we can handle anything they throw at us.”

Derek Scott, vice-president (program development)

 

 

peter@peterdiekmeyer.com

 

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