CANSEC 2015: Top 20 gadgets and products

By Evelyn Brotherston; (CANSEC photos by Richard Lawrence)

From May 27-28, Canada’s defence industry converged on Ottawa for CANSEC 2015 – the premier Canadian trade show for all things military. From surveillance equipment worthy of James Bond, to innovative construction systems and the latest in combat gear, this year’s show displayed the most advanced equipment available to the Canadian Armed Forces. In alphabetical order, here are 20 of the stand out gadgets and products from CANSEC 2015.


Argo: All-Terrain Mobility Vehicle

Ontario-based company Argo was profiling its Argo XT extreme-terrain vehicle, currently in use by multiple NATO and allied military forces. The eight-wheeled vehicle has the appearance of a miniature jeep – complete with roll-up side and rear flaps. It can be deployed through streams, rivers and lakes, carrying a payload of 454kg. It’s also designed to navigate tundra and snow – and to operate in temperatures ranging from 40 C to -40 C. Thanks to its size and weight, it is easily deployable by air, and can be fitted with a helicopter sling kit for air drop. Added bonuses: optional track ice cleats, medical stretcher kit for secure transport of wounded, and an optional 8-wheel amphibious trailer.


Arktos: Evacuation craft

Is it a tank or is it a boat? BC-based Arktos Developments’ amphibious vehicle can navigate terrain that no other vehicle can, thanks to its hollow dual-hulls and spike-covered tank treads. It’s designed to maneuver over land, ice and water, or through a mixture of ice and water. In the Arctic, there are few ways of moving people from land to sea and vice versa. Arktos’ unique system utilizes spikes which allow the vehicle to claw itself out of the water and scale icy inclines as steep as 34-degrees. It can climb up onto ice floes thanks to the dual hull: the front unit uses the buoyancy of the back hull for support as it climbs out of the water; when it gets out of the water, its tracks pull the back hull out. The craft can transport up to 52 people in comfort through -50 C temperatures or the heat of an oil slick fire, making it the ideal vehicle for Arctic missions.


DRS: Deployable Flight Incident Recorder set

Here’s a scenario that’s only too familiar: a small plane goes down in a remote location, but its Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) either doesn’t go off, or is damaged on impact. An ELT is meant to send out a signal so rescuers can locate downed planes as quickly as possible. However, these systems are notoriously unpredictable, thanks to their vulnerability in crashes. The need for improved technology led DRS to produce its Deployable Flight Incident Recorder Set (DFIRS), an integrated Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and ELT. In a crash, the DFIRS is triggered automatically by an impact sensor or through release of the ejection seat. It’s released into the aircraft’s slipstream where it “flies” away from the aircraft. The rugged design allows it to withstand severe impacts with ground or water, and it will float indefinitely until recovered. The internal ELT is activated simultaneously by the release of the device. Ground support equipment provided with the unit can readily be connected to the flight recorder to immediately download and analyze the internal data on the same day as the crash.


General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada: LAV 6.0

The LAV III, backbone of the Canadian Army’s vehicle fleet, got an upgrade in the form of the LAV 6.0, the latest offering from General Dynamics Canada, which will replace the current fleet of LAV IIIs. After the beating the LAV IIIs took in Afghanistan, the priority was on increasing protection – but not at the expense of mobility. The result is a vehicle that weights 50,000 lbs when fully equipped, but which has a mobility comparable to or better than the original high-mobility 38,000 lb model that the upgrade is based on. A win-win, you might say.


HDT Global: Family of shelters

HDT’s tents give “glamping” a whole new meaning. Currently used by Canadian Special Forces, the tents are air conditioned, have self-powered heaters and high-efficiency lighting that can be powered by expeditionary solar power. They’re designed to be as energy efficient as possible and come equipped with a thermal floor layer, a dual liner, and Solar Fly which shades the structure.  Rugged, durable, and designed to fold down to a fraction of their size, their applications include everything from an operations centre to a deployable medical facility. HDT is even pioneering systems to protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats.


Honeywell: non-fogging glasses

Honeywell’s non-fogging glasses have a whole host of potential uses — military and civilian (hockey, anyone?) “Foggy lenses are the number one challenge that users of safety eyewear face on the job,” the company says. The anti-fogging technology is permanently bonded to the lens and will outlast the roughest of wear and tear.


Hudson Supplies: Buckles

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One of the most down-to-earth innovations on display at CANSEC was Hudson Supplies’ newest buckle (or “advanced closure solution”). Utilising rare earth magnets as a closing mechanism, their latest offering can be used in combat vests, helmets, and wherever else you may struggle to connect the two ends of a buckle. Because of the attraction of the latch and body parts, you don’t need to align them together them for them to connect — no more fumbling with that chin strap!


MBDA: Aster Surface-to-air Aster missile

As Canada edges closer to awarding contracts for the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC), MBDA was on hand to showcase the most advanced in air defence solutions, including the Aster surface-to-air missile. The Aster is an anti-missile missile (technology Canada doesn’t currently have), designed for the ultimate precision. It can knock out a baseball travelling at mach 3 or mach 4 at a range of more than 100 km. It could also knock out the same baseball just one kilometer away, unlike most missiles, which require various systems to cover different ranges.


Meggitt Training Systems: Mosquito UHV-T

Meggit’s unmanned Mosquito helicopter may look like a big toy – but it’s actually the only realistic, low-cost target helicopter in the world. An ultra-light, unmanned craft, the Mosquito can emulate attack profiles for land-to-air based targets, air-to-air and maritime helicopters, and single or swarming unmanned helicopters. It is designed to meet the test and evaluation requirements of new weapons systems as well as those of modern helicopter defence systems.


MMIST: CQ-10B Snow Goose Bravo UAV

Ottawa-based MMIST’s latest offering in aerial surveillance is the CQ-10B Snow Goose Bravo, whose maiden flight was a mere four weeks before the show. The Snow Goose Bravo has a payload of 320kg and the impressive speed of 185 km/hour. Capable of full autonomous flight within the boundaries of approved air space, the Snow Goose operates according to pre-programmed missions. Its flight is monitored and controlled from a SATCOM ground control station. It can carry fuel tanks, which allow for up to 18 hours of flying time, giving it long-range surveillance capabilities.


National Research Council: Boron Nitride Nanotubes

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Here’s a riddle for the chemistry nerds: what’s 100 times stronger than steel, 30 times stronger than Kevlar, and can be used in bullet-proof vests? The answer is Boron Nitride Nanotubes (BNNT), a material the National Research Council (NRC) was on hand to showcase. With the potential to be used in light-weight armoured material to protect against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and ballistic impacts, the technology is the future of personal protective equipment (PPE) and armoured vehicles (AVs). Until recently, it was extremely time-intensive to produce, but the NRC has developed a method for industrial-scale production that is 100-times faster than earlier technologies. The NRC’s Boron Nitride Nanotube production capacity is currently the largest in the world.


Nuform: CONFORM concrete wall forming system

Our team was unanimous in its praise for the Ontario-based company Nuform Building Technologies’ innovative CONFORM concrete wall forming system. An alternative to conventional construction systems, the technology is designed to go up quickly and be resistant to the harshest weather conditions. It’s a smart solution for social housing and for use in support of humanitarian aid. How it works: pre-fabricated PVC exterior components slide and interconnect to create a form into which concrete is poured. Although the company has yet to sell to the Canadian government, the technology has been purchased by both the American Air Force and the American State Department.


Polaris: DAGOR ultra-light vehicle

To meet the challenge of a mobility gap for the US Special Forces, Polaris developed the DAGOR ultra-light off-road vehicle. According to the company, “We’ve heard from our Special Forces customers that DAGOR gets them places they have not gone in a vehicle before.” What makes it special? It balances the requirements of payload, off-road mobility, and tactical air-transportability — plus it’s heavy weapons-capable. The open design also means there’s ample, easily-accessible, loading space.


Proxdynamics: Black Hornet PRS

One of the coolest gadgets of the show turned out to be the smallest. Proxdynamics’ miniature helicopter is a mere 18g, with a rotor span of just 120mm — making it the world’s smallest Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Handmade in Norway, the helicopter can provide real-time video surveillance and photography. While larger UAVs may require permission to operate in airspace, the Hornet’s size means it can operate just about anytime, anywhere. It can fly pre-programmed flights or be steered, meaning it has the ability to provide reconnaissance in just about any environment, with an endurance of 25 minutes.


Revision Military: Nerv Centr Lithium ion rechargeable energy systems

Along with food, water and ammunition, power is a deplete-able resource for soldiers in the field. Thanks to Revisions’ Nerv Centr Lithium ion rechargeable energy systems, conserving, storing, and renewing energy just got easier. The system includes the Nerv Centr SharePack, a rechargeable battery that not only stores and supplies power, but can also harvest power from sources like a solar blanket or a vehicle — which means soldiers can pick up power whenever the opportunity presents itself. The SharePack is designed to fit into a magazine pouch and can pack enough energy to sustain a 12-hour mission.


Rockwell Collins: Oculus Rift glasses

Rockwell Collins’ Oculus Rift glasses take virtual reality to a whole new level. Utilizing the same technology that Facebook recently purchased for $2 billion when it acquired the company Oculus VR, Rockwell Collins’ glasses are designed to simulate a variety of combat situations.  They immerse users in a 3D digital world, complete with high-resolution images. Motion sensors in the headset track the movement of a person’s head, shifting their view on the screen and thus creating the illusion that the user is in another world. When the user takes a footstep, the glasses register the movement and allow the viewer to simultaneously “walk” around in the virtual reality as well.


Saab: Carl Gustav M4

At close to half the weight of its predecessor, the newest model of the Carl Gustav – (AKA the “Carl G” or “Charlie G,” depending on which army you hail from) – the M4, is a multi-role, recoilless weapon system capable of taking out a tank. The newest model features an adjustable shoulder rest and front grip and can be carried while loaded to enable quicker reaction times. It also has a round counter and is compatible with intelligent sight systems.


Sprung: Expeditionary Hangar

Putting up tough, durable structures in the field is no easy feat, and Sprung offers a quick, sturdy option that can be erected in a fraction of the time required for traditional construction methods. According to the company, the expeditionary hangar (which was used by American forces in Afghanistan), is the ideal choice for logistically challenged locations. It can be anchored to virtually any surface, is re-locatable, and can withstand extreme weather and hurricane-force winds. It consists of a fire-retardant tensioned membrane stretched across a lightweight aluminum frame, and can be constructed at a rate of 1000 sq. ft. per day.


Thales: Fusion Table

For cutting-edge battle-management tech, we turn to Thales, and their uber-cool Fusion Table, a digital mapping system mounted on a table which is capable of tracking battles in real time. Perfect for use in headquarters, the device allows soldiers to annotate maps with the locations of obstacles or assets within a conflict area, as well as to send and receive information directly from personnel on the battlefield. The system is designed to be integrated with tablets known as Tactical Battle Management Systems (TBMS), which go into a vehicle turret, as well as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) carried by individual soldiers, insuring efficiency of communication during the heat of battle.


Tulmar Safety Systems: 6-Person Life Raft

Ontario-based Tulmar has produced the answer to the problem of ungainly life raft and survival equipment taking up valuable seat space aboard SAR aircraft. The solution: a rugged, vacuum-packed life raft system with integrated survival kit. Packed in a hard case, the 6-person survival system can be stored beneath seats and deployed using a 4-point release system that detaches from the floor with a single action. The raft is inflated by a charge of CO2 and nitrogen, stored in a high pressure aluminum cylinder. Upon inflation, the raft provides thermal insulation to occupants and an adjustable canopy supported by an inflated arch, weighing in at just 54 lbs.

CANSEC 2015 was, by all accounts, the best yet. How many other events in the country draw 11,000 registrants, six Cabinet ministers, and 61 foreign delegations? Held in Ottawa’s EY Centre, this year’s show included speeches by Jason Kenney, Minister of National Defence; James Moore, Minister of Industry; Diane Finley, Minister of Public Works and Government Services; Erin O’Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs; Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, Ed Holder, Minister of State for Science and Technology; and Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS) Lieutenant-General Guy Thibault.

The Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), which hosts the event, had this to say about the show: “CANSEC 2015 featured several new initiatives…These included: the continued growth of the international dimension of CANSEC, with more foreign delegations than ever, government making several policy announcements from the podium, CADSI hosting its own press conference, more floor space for exhibitors, the use of a web-based ‘Show App,’ and a new printed Show Daily.”

We conducted our own survey to see how this year’s show measured up. The results were positive across the board, with the question of catering being the principle cause for dissent.

Below are the results of our polling of exhibitors:


Q: Should the show be two or three days?

A: They should stick to two days – 58%; it should be three days – 42%.

Comments: “It’s long enough”; “Given human nature, people start winding down after lunch on day two, reducing the show to a day and a half. If we had three days the winding down on the last day would give us two and a half days. Frankly, we could scrap Securetech.”


Q: How would you rate the quality of the speakers?

A: Excellent – 6%; Good – 41%; Adequate – 36%; Poor – 17%.

Comments: “Always nice to have a Minister or two give a speech”; “Overly political”; “We don’t expect much more”


Q: How was the quality of the catering, including the cocktail reception and formal meals?

A: Excellent – 0%; Good – 28%; Adequate – 33%; Poor 39%.

Comments: “The quality was inconsistent. Some meals were good. One breakfast was really lousy”; “They need better lunch facilities for those not attending functions.”


Q: How would you rate your overall CANSEC experience this year?

A: Excellent – 62%; Good – 33%; Adequate – 5%; Poor – 0%.

Comments: “One of the best CANSECs we’ve had and I’ve been attending for many years”; “I think we should encourage [more of] our service chiefs to be there”; “We want to accept donations for non-profit organizations, like Military Minds, who promote PTSD awareness, but it isn’t possible to accept donations at CANSEC”; “Overall show was very good, except for checkout. It took 3.5 hours to get our display boxes … the booth was almost completely apart before our boxes arrived. We found out that if we had paid a premium we could have got our boxes sooner.”


And finally, our polling of attendees (Using a scale of 1 to 5):


Q: Exhibits: How would you rate the range of products related to your area of interest?

A: The average rating was 4.5 / 5.


Q: Administration: How would you rate the registration process and security of the show?

A: The average rating was 4.7 / 5.


Q: Creature comforts: How would you rate the food, rest areas, and washroom facilities?

A: The average rating was 3.3 / 5.


Q: Overall: How would you rate your overall impression of the show?

A: The average rating was 4.6 / 5.