By David Pugliese
From the June 2016 Issue (Volume 23, Issue 5)
From an aviation point of view, the focus of a number of CANSEC 2016 exhibitors will be on three key programs for the RCAF: the acquisition of new fixed-wing search and rescue (FWSAR) aircraft, the provision of contracted air services, and the eventual replacement of the CF-18 fighter jet.
It won’t come as a surprise to industry watchers that speculation about which firm will walk away with the contract for the Canadian government’s FWSAR project will be a hot topic during CANSEC 2016.
The $3.1 billion aircraft procurement has been years in the making. Bids were submitted January 11 and RCAF commander LGen Michael Hood says the winning bidder is expected to be announced by the end of this year.
CANSEC 2016 exhibitors Airbus and Alenia Aermacchi have been courting the Canadian government for more than a decade on FWSAR. Their aircraft are proven and currently flying in search-and-rescue missions for other countries.
Alenia’s group — dubbed Team Spartan — includes Alenia Aermacchi (a subsidiary of Finmeccanica Aircraft Division); General Dynamics Canada (in-service support systems integrator and mission system provider); IMP Aerospace (responsible for the installation of General Dynamics’ mission system); DRS Technologies Canada (training); Kelowna Flightcraft (maintenance and repair, engineering support, and supply chain management); Esterline CMC Electronics (various pieces of flight equipment); Flyht Aerospace (automated flight reporting system); Rolls Royce (engines); and Standard Aero (maintenance of Canadian fleet of FWSAR engines). Team Spartan has bid the C-27J.
Airbus Defence & Space has teamed with Provincial Aerospace of St. John’s, Newfoundland; Pratt & Whitney Canada of Longueuil, Quebec; CAE of Montreal; and L-3 WESCAM ofBurlington, Ontario. Provincial Aerospace is the main Canadian in-service support (ISS) partner; Pratt & Whitney Canada will provide engines for every aircraft; CAE manufactures simulators and training devices; and L-3 WESCAM will produce the electro/optical sensors for the aircraft. This consortium is bidding the C-295W.
The new FWSAR planes will replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s aging Buffalo aircraft and older model C-130s that are currently assigned to search-and-rescue duties. The FWSAR project is divided into a contract for the acquisition of the aircraft and another contract for 20 years of in-service support.
Both teams are highlighting their proven capabilities. Team Spartan members General Dynamics Mission Systems – Canada and Finmeccanica are also promoting their joint venture to provide long-term in-service support for the C-27J aircraft in Canada. Managed by General Dynamics Mission Systems –Canada, Spartan Aviation Services will be the Canadian in-service support integrator if the C-27J is selected as the Royal Canadian Air Force’s fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft.
Spartan Aviation Services will be responsible for the delivery of the entire ISS program and will be supported by a partner network in Canada including: KF Aerospace, DRS Canada, TRU Sim, Rolls Royce Canada, Standard Aero, CAE, CMC Esterline, L3 Wescam and ATCO.
The C-295W team has also rolled out its in-service support organization. Airbus Defence & Space and Provincial Aerospace have combined their assets to create a joint venture, AirPro Search and Rescue Services, which will be responsible for all of the ISS for the C-295W should it win the contract.
The third bidder for FWSAR is Embraer, with its KC-390. But the aircraft is facing a number of drawbacks in this competition: the aircraft only made its maiden flight in February 2015 and is not yet in full production. Some defence industry representatives questioned how Embraer was able to bid since the plane is not yet certified. The company has said that certification won’t take place until the end of 2017 and first deliveries not until 2018. Embraer also does not appear to have announced any teaming arrangements with Canadian firms. (As of press time, it doesn’t have a booth at this year’s CANSEC, although in the past Embraer has noted it has arrangements with Boeing to market the KC-390.)
Embraer officials, however, do not see any of these issues as an impediment to the firm winning Canada’s FWSAR contract.
CANSEC 2016 will also feature many of the companies who hope their aircraft will eventually replace Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets. The Trudeau government has promised an open and transparent competition and firms are proceeding based on that claim.
The actual contract is still many years away, but that hasn’t stopped the companies from marketing themselves as the best solution for Canada.
Boeing continues to highlight its Super Hornet, and Dassault its Rafale fighter jet. The Saab Gripen was seen as a contender during Canada’s original examination of the fighter jet market, but company officials have largely stayed silent for the time being. Eurofighter is promoting its Typhoon and the aircraft’s interoperability with NATO nations.
At last year’s CANSEC, Eurofighter promoted its plane based on its proven capabilities; more than 430 aircraft have been delivered and 300,000 hours flown. It has also promoted its improved technologies, including the development of an AESA E-Scan radar system. The European consortium has also highlighted its ability to provide Canadian firms with high-tech work on the aircraft (Eurofighter partner companies include Finmeccanica – Alenia Aermacchi, BAE Systems and Airbus Defence & Space).
Lastly, it has promoted the progress made on weapons integration, including the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile and the Storm Shadow stand-off precision attack weapon. The effectiveness of ASRAAM air-to-air missile and Paveway IV laser/GPS-guided bombs has also been enhanced with software upgrades, company officials say.
Cindy Tessier, head of communications for Lockheed Martin Canada, said their firm will have a robust presence at CANSEC 2016 “showcasing a broad range of business solutions for our customers.” On the aviation side, it will highlight future aircrew training solutions, the C-130J and Sikorsky helicopters.
Last year Lockheed Martin purchased Sikorsky for $9 billion. On the Canadian scene, Lockheed’s Sikorsky subsidiary is in the midst of delivering its Cyclone maritime helicopter; the RCAF accepted the first six CH-148s in June of last year and aircraft are still being tested.
Also to be highlighted at the booth this year will be Lockheed Martin’s CDL Systems, which specializes in the development and licensing of vehicle control station software for unmanned systems, Tessier said.
In addition, a centerpiece at the Lockheed Martin booth will be the F-35 cockpit demonstrator. Although the demonstrator has been on display at previous CANSECs, the device is always a crowd favourite.
For the aviation market, CANSEC 2016 exhibitor Nammo of Norway has developed ammunition specifically for the F-35. Norway received its first F-35 last fall and with that Nammo started delivering its 25mm APEX (Armor Piercing Ammunition Explosive) ammunition, designed to counter a range of threats. The ammunition is a next-generation armour-piercing, high explosive round; APEX is specifically tailored for the multi-role functions on the F-35. Company officials point out that the ammunition can be used for all types of missions, and against air, navy and ground targets. Nammo wants to eventually see APEX being selected by all partner countries to F-35.
Providing the RCAF with an aggressor fleet to train its pilots is the goal of the Contracted Air Services project or CATS.
CATS will run over an initial 10-year period, followed by the option to continue for another five years. The contract could be worth up to $1.5 billion over that period of time.
CATS will provide aircraft to simulate hostile threats for ground and naval forces as well as fighter pilots. The project also provides aircraft for training of forward air controllers as well as planes to tow targets and carry electronic warfare systems for various training scenarios.
“The contract is expected to be awarded by the end of 2016,” Pierre-Alain Bujold, spokesman for Public Services and Procurement Canada, told Esprit de Corps. Three bids were submitted, Public Services and Procurement Canada noted, but for competitive reasons the department will not release details.
Discovery Air Defence, which already provides such services to the German and Canadian militaries and will highlight at CANSEC its capabilities in this area, has submitted its bid.
CAE has joined forces with the U.S.-based Draken International to bid on CATS. Aerospace industry representatives also believe that the U.S.-based Airborne Tactical Advantage Company, owned by Textron, submitted a bid, but the firm is not commenting at this time.
Garry Venman, vice-president of business development and government relations at Discovery Air Defence, said the firm has now provided over 55,000 hours of airborne training services for the Canadian Armed Forces, the German armed forces and other air forces worldwide.
He said the company has its eye on a potential $3 billion global market for airborne training services, which includes potential contracts in the U.S. The company has a U.S.-based subsidiary and is also looking at markets from Australia to the Middle East. It has provided such services to Canada since 2005 and started delivering similar services to the German military in 2015.
“The Germans are quite happy with the service,” Venman said. “We think we can easily expand to offer services to additional countries in NATO. We’re seeing positive concrete evidence that air forces are starting to seriously consider the role a contracted adversary plays in their future training environments.”
Venman said that customers are requiring more capable adversaries as they transition to next-generation fighters. The actual aircraft performing such roles are second to the technology offered.
“The real driver will be the sensor technology, not necessarily the aircraft performance,” Venman explained. “Our strategy is to develop our in-house engineering capabilities to have solutions to provide technology insertions into these platforms which make them a representative training adversary,” he added.
While firms wait for the RCAF to proceed with the Joint Uninhabited Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) — a contract not expected to be awarded until 2020 — companies are highlighting the roles smaller UAVs can play. Textron has both its Shadow 200 Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, used by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, as well as those UAVs from its subsidiary Aerosonde.
The name of CANSEC 2016 exhibitor Pratt and Whitney Canada, a subsidiary of United Technologies, is synonymous with aircraft engines. Its engines are powering the C-27J aircraft for instance, but the company also continues to dominate the helicopter market as well. The firm, based in Quebec, recently announced that its PT6B-37A turboshaft engines will power 25 new AgustaWestland AW119Kx helicopters for a U.S.-Chinese project. The aircraft will be used to establish a Chinese air ambulance capability. The PT6 turboshaft engine family powers more helicopters than any other engine in its power class, Pratt and Whitney has noted.
Pratt and Whitney’s F135 propulsion system is also the engine of choice for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet. (The F135 is the derivative of the company’s proven F119-PW-100 engine.)
CANSEC 2016 exhibitor Rockwell Collins Canada says it plans to highlight a number of systems including: its made-in-Canada Wideband HF communication system; the ARC-210, an airborne programmable software defined radio; Pro Line Fusion, which uses commercial-military dual-use avionics for helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft; the SmartBlade Radio, which provides flexible, space efficient communications
for air traffic control applications; TruNet networked communications solutions for air, land and sea customized networks; simulation and training solutions including the firm’s virtual reality aircraft maintenance training demonstration; and high performance, digital GPS anti-jam receivers.
Rockwell Collins was already selected to provide satellite communications terminals for the Canadian Army. In the fall of 2014 it was part of a General Dynamics Canada team that was provided a contract to upgrade more than 11,000 Canadian military combat radios. Delivery of the upgraded radios will continue until next year.