By Sandrine Murray
November 30, 2017 is the deadline for Alion Canada to submit its request for proposal (RFP) for the design of the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) contract. If anyone is [over]qualified for the job, it’s Alion.
What started as a Chicago-based technology research institute in the 1930s became Alion Science and Technology Corporation in 2002. Alion provides engineering and operational support to the U.S. government for national defence, intelligence and homeland security. They were the design agent for the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and C-47 Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers in the U.S. Navy.
Canada offered an attractive market to invest and expand the operations of Alion, specifically in the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS, now called the National Shipbuilding Strategy or NSS).
Alion couldn’t simply import the U.S. expertise and capabilities to Canada, explained Chief Operating Officer Bruce E. Samuelsen. Instead, it would need to implant them within the country. To do so, they established Alion Canada in 2009.
Alion Canada has about 100 professionals, which includes engineers, naval architects and designers living and working in Canada. The company will leverage strength from the U.S. operations to support growth in Canada. American engineers trained Canadians.
“I’ve weaned myself of all the Americans, and now have implanted that skillset here,” Samuelsen says.
Alion Canada is committed to Canada for the long run. The investments made in Canada to date have already generated jobs and economic benefit, said Samuelsen. Alion has met with businesses across Canada to create opportunities for the Canadian industry and exports. Their proposition promises high-value work and sustainable economic benefits.
These include internships and work on various aspects of Alion, he says, including the CSC bid. Alion Canada’s goal is to lead the CSC design project and to export its ship design capabilities to the broader global market.
The Canadian government will invest in 15 CSC vessels, which will be Canada’s major surface component of maritime combat power. They need to be designed to be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world, either independently or as part of a Canadian international coalition. According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, the entire CSC program is projected to cost roughly $60-billion, which include such costs as training and ammunition; this amount does not include costs for personnel, operations, maintenance and mid-life refurbishment of the vessels.
The CSC project, part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy to renew the Royal Canadian Navy’s fleet, will replace the Iroquois-class destroyers and the Halifax-class multi-role patrol frigates with one single class capable of meeting various threats on the open ocean and coastal environment.
This is the biggest shipbuilding project in Canada since the Second World War, and involves a lengthy five-stage acquisition process.
“It’s a massive procurement,” says Samuelsen. “I’ve been able to pull people out of retirement for this project.”
Designing a ship is like designing a small city, but with a twist, he explained. Pull a city out of its roots and look at all the services and components that allow it to run smoothly. Then make it whole, so it can become self-sustaining. Finally, place it in the world’s most hostile environment, the ocean … now the task seems even more challenging.
“The complexity of a ship, for me as a naval architect, is really cool,” said Samuelsen. “But to develop the response, it’s a very intensive, cautious, careful process.”
But Alion is ready, because they bring an off-the-shelf design with a proven combat system and ship platform, making the necessary changes to meet Canada’s requirement. The platform and system solutions are currently operational to reduce the risk and cost for the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian taxpayer.
They selected the Dutch De Zeven Provinciën Air Defence and Command (LCF) frigate as a baseline for CSC, because it meets all the mandatory selection criteria without modification. It will also accelerate the production process, because it requires substantially fewer changes and provides the lowest risk approach to fulfilling Canada’s needs.