Canadian Defence Review


June 13, 2014


CANSEC report 2014

Lured by promises of naval, air and land procurements, this growing defence show is attracting an increased international presence.


Canadian defence industry big-shots gathered again this year in Ottawa in late May for CANSEC, the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries’ annual trade show. Attendance was brisk says Tim Page, CADSI’s president, who has overseen this increasingly popular event since he joined the organization in 2005. Around 10,600 participants, from 320 companies and 36 nations crammed into the sold-out Ernst & Young center.


“The show continues to grow year-over-year,” said Page.  “Credit has to go to the Canadian government and its commitment to recapitalize the armed forces as part of the Canada First Defence Strategy.” Page gave a nod to numerous federal attendees including Diane Finley minister in charge of Public Works and Government Services Canada and Rob Nicholson, Canada’s Minister of National Defence, who delivered the keynote address, during which he announced the June 16th release date for the government’s long-awaited acquisition guide.


The guide, which will be updated regularly will list 200 capabilities that the Department of National Defence will need during the coming decades. This will give defence sector providers visibility so they can better channel their research and development efforts and their personnel and capital equipment deployment.


Dew Engineering: a new Arctic Ski-Doo

As usual companies took advantage of CANSEC to announce partnerships, new contracts and various innovations. For example Jackie Pothier director (business development) at DEW Engineering was there to showcase a military Ski-Doo that the firm developed which can effectively operate in Canada’s cold northern climates.


According to Pothier, the heavy-duty unit uses military fuel, hauls more and has a longer range than civilian Ski-Doos. DEW is hoping to market it to both Canadian and other Northern export markets notably Scandinavia and Alaska. “With Canada talking about preserving Arctic sovereignty we saw an untapped potential,” said Pothier. “We conducted field trials and have gotten input from the military recently and so far the results have been quite promising.”


Uncertainty regarding JSF and NSPS

There was more than a hint of anticipation running throughout the show this year, stemming from increasing uncertainty related to two major Department of National Defence programs. For one, the Harper Government’s review of its decision to give out a huge no-bid Joint Strike Fighter contract to Lockheed Martin, without methodically studying alternate possibilities, has left competitor providers such as Boeing, Eurofighter and Dassault Aviation, itching for a formal competition.


Lockheed Martin, which has been building up its Canadian operations to hold on to its Joint Strike Fighter perch also had a strong presence at CANSEC, where it showcased an F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter simulator. Lockheed Martin also announced that Public Works and Government Services Canada had awarded it a $12.5 million contract on behalf of the Royal Canadian Air Force to produce enhanced laser guided training rounds.


Lee Obst, Canada’s managing director at Rockwell Collins a JSF sub-contractor was also at CANSEC again this year, this time demonstrating the F-35 Gen II Helmet Mounted Display System, which the company developed in conjunction with Lockheed Martin. This high-tech helmet and related sensors, which provide enhanced situational awareness for pilots, are one of most visible representations of this innovative aircraft’s capabilities.


Similarly Alex Vicefield, chairman of Davie Shipbuilding and his staff were lobbying defence department and Royal Canadian Armed Forces officials to modify National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy’s provisions, which essentially award no-bid contracts for all Royal Canadian Navy vessels for the coming decades. Davie officials say they can deliver part of the production at a fraction of the cost of existing providers.


In fact there were several suppliers at CANSEC hoping to land NSPS related work. These included BMT Fleet Technologies, which showcased its ship design, acquisition and project management support, and Portsmouth Atlantic.


The latter’s staff, led by Al Dillon, the company’s chief operating officer (and former CDR defence executive of the year) went out of their way to showcase their clean air solutions which counter chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats to Royal Canadian Navy personnel. The Prince Edward Island-based company, a subsidiary of Portsmouth Aviation, hopes to leverage its local roots and innovative air filtration, ventilation and purification solutions, to land work on the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, Canadian Surface Combattant, Joint Support Ships and Auxiliary Fleet programs.


General Dynamics, which when all of its divisions are lumped together is Canada’s largest defence contractor in terms of employees, once again had a substantial presence. The company’s General Dynamics Land Systems unit’s officials proudly showcased a new “LAV 6” (as the LAV III upgrades will now be known). GDLS also brought along an Ocelot Tactical Vehicle and a Bronco 2 Marginal Terrain Vehicle.


General Dynamics Canada officials were also talking up an undersea warfare center to be opened in Halifax later this year, its “SWORD” Soldier Weapon & Observer Reconnaissance Devices (in collaboration with Colt Canada) and promoting its role in the Team Spartan’s Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft bid.


More FWSAR partnerings

In fact there were a lot of players sniffing around the FWSAR pot this year. Alenia Aermacchi, which has been quarterbacking Team Spartan’s efforts, took the opportunity to announce another new roster member. If the team’s bid is accepted, Esterline CMC, the Montreal-based avionics and cockpit solutions provider will supply its TacView portable mission displays and its SureSight, enhanced vision system sensors.


Not to be outdone, system integrator HISS Inc.’s president Roger Smibert, who was recently named Canadian Defence Review’s defence executive of the year, for leading the company’s impressive export performance in tough markets, was also on hand showcasing the company’s latest successes.


Rheinmetall Canada also had a substantial presence, particularly at the outdoor display area where the company showcased the BAE Systems BvS10 all-terrain vehicle, which the two firms are proposing for the Marginal Terrain Vehicles (MTV) program. Under the deal BAE would supply the hardware and Rheinmetall would supply in-service support and integrate the Canada-specific sub-systems including the remote weapons station.


Not to be outdone, on the land front Oshkosh Defence also grabbed attention by showcasing a broad range of its purpose-built military vehicles. According to a company spokesperson Oshkosh is attaching high hopes to its standard military pattern medium support vehicle systems (MSVS), which internal experts regard as a best value solution from a quality and economic benefits standpoint. Two Oshkosh MSVS vehicles, including cargo and load handling system variants are currently being tested and evaluated by DND. 


There were also a slew of smaller and mid-sized players seeking to get noticed. For example Scott Dewis president of

RaceRocks, was on hand to show off the company’s training solutions. The company has been leveraging game developers who use storytelling, filmmaking and interactive media, to create virtual skills training tools that are entertaining and instructive. 


Jonathan Blanshay of Revision Military was also a visible show presence. The protective soldier solutions manufacturer’s CEO used the event to announce the expansion of its product portfolio with he says is “the world’s first fully integrated night vision mount and accessory rail system for ACH-style helmets.” The Revision Viper Front Mount can also be to armor up in high-threat situations with the Batlskin Visor and Mandible.


Brian March, president of Kaycom for his part leveraged CANSEC to announce a  $1 million contract win to supply Saft – BA5590 - Lithium Sulphur Dioxide Batteries, to be used with DND Combat Net Radio systems. Immarsat for its part showcased its mobile satellite technology.


Considerable international interest

Among the most visible major changes at CANSEC this year was the vast increase in international visitors, which included staffers from 20 embassies and 16 foreign militaries. The group was led by Israel, which recently signed a defence cooperation agreement with the Harper Government. Twelve Israeli firms showed up including Elbit, Israel Military Industries (IMI) and Simlat. Canada represents an attractive potential market for international defence players in this era of tight budget cuts. If the Harper Government follows through on its commitments, Canada would be one of the few countries that has long-term plans to upgrade major military kit across all three major services: the army, navy and air force.


The other noticeable presence this year were veterans congregating around two complimentary booths that CADSI made available to Veterans Affairs Canada and the Royal Canadian Legion, to support retired military personnel.


One melancholy note was the announcement that Page, CADSI’s president, who has been a constant CANSEC presence in recent years, will be moving on, to new horizons at Seaspan Industries. He will have a tough role to fill at this Western Canadian naval player, which was selected to build the non-combattant vessels in the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.


The biggest challenge that Page successor at CANSEC will have going forward relates to space restrictions at the show’s current venue. According to CADSI officials, existing booths sold out weeks beforehand. Next year the defence association is considering moving large meal events to a sheltered space outdoors to free up an additional 50 slots for the growing event.


CANSEC 2015 will be held on May 27th and 28thof 2015 at the Ernst & Young center.







[1] Data from site as at August 6, 2014

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