By David Pugliese
From the April Issue (Volume 23, Issue 3)
DAVID PUGLIESE PREVIEWS THE LATEST IN NAVAL WARFARE THAT WILL BE EXHIBITED AT THIS YEAR’S DEFENCE AND SECURITY TRADE SHOW
From a naval perspective, this year’s CANSEC defence trade show will be dominated by a couple of procurements, the main one being the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) project.
CANSEC 2016 will be held at the EY Centre in Ottawa on May 25–26 and comes just months after Public Services and Procurement Canada announced a number of key proposed changes to the program to acquire a fleet of Canadian Surface Combatants.
The original National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) had one firm handling the design and integration of combat systems and another designing the warship. Irving Shipbuilding on the East Coast would be the prime contractor and do the actual construction.
But the federal government has now proposed changing how the acquisition is structured. Irving’s role remains the same. But instead of developing a combat system and vessel design, Canada will use an existing off-the-shelf foreign ship design that already has a proven and integrated combat system.
The government has also compiled a list of equipment and technologies in 24 main areas that Canadian companies are expected to provide for the $26-billion fleet of surface combatants. Some of those areas involve navigation, sonar and electro-optical systems for the ships that will form the backbone of the Royal Canadian Navy in future.
Government officials believe as many as 80 domestic companies might be able to contribute, although a number of firms are already sounding the alarm that the proposed changes might hurt their chances to obtain work.
In November, Public Services and Procurement Canada announced the results of the pre-qualification process, which it pointed out is the first step in the competitive procurement process to select a combat systems integrator (CSI) and a warship designer for the CSC. For the combat systems integrator, the pre-qualified firms are:
· Atlas Elektronik GmbH
· DCNS SA
· Lockheed Martin Canada
· Saab Australia Pty Ltd.
· Selex ES S.p.A.
· Thales Nederland B.V.
· ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems GmbH
For the warship designer, the pre-qualified firms are:
· Alion-JJMA Corp.
· BAE Systems Surface Ships Limited
· DCNS SA
· Fincantieri S.p.A. Naval Vessels Business Unit
· Navantia SA
· Odense Maritime Technology
· ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems GmbH
All are expected to have a major presence at CANSEC 2016 as they position themselves in the minds of government, industry and the Royal Canadian Navy in the prelude to submitting bids for the CSC.
Some like Atlas Elektronik have a strong resumé in CSI. The firm, which a number of years ago established a Canadian subsidiary Atlas Elektronik Canada Ltd, has in past CANSEC shows been promoting its capabilities to supply sonars and other sensors, command and control systems and underwater vehicles. In addition, the firm has a long history in counter-mine capabilities and torpedo and anti-torpedo weapons.
Over the decades, the firm has worked successfully with various shipyards to deliver combat systems integration on programs similar to CSC. Those contributions include Germany’s F124 frigate and the F125 frigate. Overall, the firm has noted that it has provided command and control systems to more than 20 navies.
The company also points out its Canadian subsidiary is strategically located in Victoria, BC with close proximity to the RCN’s Pacific fleet.
The French firm DCNS finds itself down-selected in both the CSI and warship design categories, an enviable position to be in for sure.
In April 2014 DCNS incorporated a wholly-owned Canadian subsidiary, DCNS Technologies Canada, with headquarters in Ottawa to develop naval engineering and industrial partnerships in the country. DCNS promotes its more than 50 years of experience in designing, developing and integrating combat system for various naval platforms.
The French government and DCNS have been marketing the French multi-missions frigate (FREMM) in Canada since 2012 in preparation for CSC. In 2013 the lead ship of the class, the French Navy’s Aquitaine, visited Halifax and was toured by Canadian politicians and military personnel.
Olivier Casenave-Péré, president of DCNS Technologies Canada Inc., has pointed out the value of the FREMM design to Canadian taxpayers. Not only is it a state-of-the-art, combat-capable ship, it is proven in other navies. “From the taxpayers’ point of view, it’s much safer to start from a proven design and adapt it,” he has noted.
In addition, DCNS officials have also pointed out that if Canada chooses the firm for CSC work, the ships will be built, customized, and maintained in Canada.
L-3 has in the past been also positioning itself for CSC work. “L-3 has established a dedicated group, L-3 CMS as a single point of contact for L-3’s naval products and services,” Wendy Allerton, director of L-3 CMS, noted in a statement late last year to Esprit de Corps.
Added Allerton: “L-3 MAPPS’s globally successful Integrated Platform Management System is a key part of L-3’s overall capabilities being offered for CSC which include electronic systems integration; information assurance; integrated shipboard communications systems; underwater system solutions; turnkey platform marine electrical and electronic systems; power conversion and distribution systems; data link systems; aviation lighting and weapon storage and handling solutions; EO/IR surveillance sighting systems; and through life service support.”
Firms, such as MBDA, also see a possible role on CSC. It is interested in providing Aster as a potential air defence system for the surface combatant fleet. If selected, the firm has noted it would offer a manufacturing and production facility in Canada. Aster 15 is a short to medium range missile and Aster 30 is a short to long range, so the company has various options for the RCN. In addition, MBDA offers CAMM-ER (Common Anti-air Modular Missile Extended Range), which has an active RF seeker that provides all-weather performance with clutter rejection capabilities.
Irving Shipbuilding Inc., the prime contractor on the CSC as well as on the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS), is in the process of further increasing its profile in the months leading up to CANSEC. In early March the company opened its new massive shipbuilding facility in the Halifax area for media tours.
The public relations strategy is to inform the Canadian public about what has been going on with the company over the last four years as it has been preparing for building vessels under the NSPS. Construction has now begun on AOPS.
“We not only built the facility but now we are up and running and the benefit of all of that prep work over the last four years is that we can efficiently go into shipbuilding,” Irving Shipbuilding President Kevin McCoy told journalists. In addition, McCoy has said that Irving is on schedule to deliver the first AOPS in 2018.
Irving noted that it has invested over $350 million to build what it is calling North America’s most modern shipyard, and more than 190 companies have been awarded more than $1 billion in contracts so far under NSPS.
While many in industry are focused on the Canadian Surface Combatant, Seaspan
is busy on the RCN’s new Joint Support Ship, with engineering work on that project underway.
Seaspan was selected in 2011 by the Conservative government to build the non-combat vessels as part of the NSPS. It hopes to eventually construct 17 ships, including various science vessels, a Polar-class icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard and the two Queenston-class Joint Support Ships (JSS) for the RCN.
CANSEC 2016 attendees can expect to see the firm highlight its new shipyard and its capabilities, with a focus on delivering on NSPS programs.
The company’s Vancouver yard currently employs around 600. When the $2.6 billion JSS project gets under way in earnest this number will increase to 1,300. Another 800 are in the company’s yard in Victoria, BC. That facility will do some of the finishing work for the ships. The first JSS is expected to be operating in 2020, with the second in 2021.
Seaspan is also already at work on the federal government’s offshore fisheries science vessels, another project it will highlight at CANSEC 2016.
Rival shipyard Chantier Davie Canada Inc., based in Lévis, Quebec, will also be front-and-centre at CANSEC 2016, promoting its Project Resolve vessel to provide the RCN with an interim supply ship. This Resolve-class ship will fill the supply vessel gap for the Navy until the JSS is fully operational.
Under the contract, Davie would provide a civilian crew to operate the interim ship; Royal Canadian Navy personnel would be on board to handle communications and the actual transfer of supplies and fuel to warships.
“This is actually a full services agreement,” Alex Vicefield, the CEO of Davie’s parent firm, has explained to Esprit de Corps. “We’ll actually be running the ship, so it’ll be our captain and our crew onboard; we’ll be doing the hotel operations, including the catering and so on.”
The company is converting the container ship Astérix into an interim supply vessel. Conversion is estimated to take around 15 months to complete. After it’s converted, the Astérix will be able to accommodate a crew of 200 as well as helicopters.
Currently, the Canadian government is only committed to one interim supply ship, but Davie is prepared to provide a second on short notice if needed. Vicefield has also noted that the ship could play a role in humanitarian relief operations if needed.
Visitors to CANSEC 2016 will also see Chantier Davie use the trade show to drive home its unsolicited bid to obtain more federal government shipbuilding contracts.
In the midst of CANSEC 2015, Davie launched a media push to highlight that it had offered to save the Conservative government $500 million on the construction of its new Polar-class icebreaker. The offer had been made six months earlier but with a large amount of media attention at the trade show, the company highlighted its bold proposal that was designed to try to take the work away from Seaspan.
Vicefield pointed out at the time that the firm could begin work immediately on the new icebreaker and have it delivered in two years. In addition, the cost was guaranteed.
Then Conservative government Public Works Minister Diane Finley used CANSEC as the venue to reject Davie’s offer.
This year, Chantier Davie is not waiting for CANSEC to highlight its push for more federal government shipbuilding work.
In late February it submitted an unsolicited package of options to the federal government to provide icebreakers and multi-purpose ships for the Canadian Coast Guard. The bid outlined how it could deliver a Polar-class icebreaker in 18 months; it also proposed the construction of three smaller icebreakers and two multi-purpose ships for patrolling, search and rescue, and science research. But the package, which offers a variety of various options, is designed to be outside the NSPS and, as such, does not technically violate that strategy.
The Polar-class icebreaker would be in addition to the one that will be eventually constructed at Seaspan. The medium-class icebreakers being proposed would be for use along the coasts and in the St. Lawrence. The multi-purpose vessels could be used by both the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Coast Guard.
Furthermore, the ships could be either a new build or converted from existing vessels, according to the Chantier Davie proposal. The key would be that they are relatively low cost and can be delivered fast, according to company officials.
“This is a fast-track solution providing enhanced capabilities at a fraction of the new building price,” the Chantier Davie proposal noted of the possibility of converting existing vessels.
The Liberal government has said it is not interested. But Chantier Davie will continue to promote such options, including at CANSEC 2016.
Along with the Canadian firms who are worried that the proposed changes by the government in the Canadian Surface Combatant acquisition project will not provide for high value work for domestic firms, year’s CANSEC could prove to be a very interesting event.