Text by Micaal Ahmed & Sandrine Murray
CANSEC Photos by Richard Lawrence
The Focal Point: The most talked-about moment from CANSEC 2017 came at the kick-off breakfast on May 31. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (pictured above, entering the dining hall with CADSI president and CEO Christyn Cianfarani) dropped an unexpected bombshell on the crowd of 800 when he singled out Boeing with some scathing criticism.
The CADSI-organized annual defence and security exhibition is usually a predictable ‘love-in’ between politicians, senior brass and the arms industry. However, Sajjan broke that mould when he told Boeing in his keynote speech that the “government strongly disagrees” with the firm’s decision to challenge Canada’s subsidies to their commercial aircraft rival, Bombardier.
Sajjan pointedly hinted that Boeing’s actions against Bombardier had thrown the previously announced interim purchase of 18 Super Hornets into jeopardy. “The interim fleet procurement requires a trusted industry partner,” Sajjan said. “Our government is of the view their action against Bombardier is unfounded. It is not the behaviour we expect of a trusted partner and we call on Boeing to withdraw it.”
Given that the Super Hornet interim purchase is valued at between $5- and $7-billion, there was considerable shock and awe in evidence at the Boeing executives’ table immediately following Sajjan’s comments. The topic remained the buzz of the water cooler chatter throughout the remainder of CANSEC.
Cyber security: At CANSEC’s breakfast on June 1, people were served French toast and a speech on behalf of the National Security Agency’s former director, Keith Alexander (left). The retired four-star general of the United States Army argued the ways industry and government must work together in the field of cyber command. He outlined the roles and responsibilities of a company, and emphasized the need for industries to send information to the government so it can defend its data in case of a cyber attack. The need for a public and private partnership was at the core of his message, as was a peculiar focus on the Russian threat.
Super Hornet simulation: Boeing — the topic of heated discussion at CANSEC following Harjit Sajjan’s opening remarks — had a must-do experience at its booth: the Super Hornet flight training simulator. While sitting in the pilot’s seat, the screens of the simulator are set to mimic the real experience of flying the aircraft. Boeing Super Hornet chief test pilot Ricardo Traven answered questions and ultimately made the experience more tangible and real, especially for those without prior knowledge of piloting. Traven has flown more than 4,000 hours in 30 different aircraft, so he knows his stuff. The fighter jet, he says, is one of his favourite planes to fly. If the simulator is any indicator, it’s not too hard to believe.
“Dune Buggy on steroids”: What comes to mind when one says combat vehicle? Probably not a vehicle resembling a Jeep with its doors missing or, as David Pugliese put it in a December 2016 article, “dune buggies on steroids.” The ultra-light vehicle named DAGOR, created by American company Polaris, seats up to nine people. What makes it so desirable is its deployability, off-road mobility, and versatility. It’s not bad looking either. A big hit at CANSEC in 2016, Polaris Industries was awarded a $20-million contract for Canadian Special Forces Command, which will get a fleet of 78 vehicles. Because of its intended purpose — off-road mobility rather than assault — the vehicle doesn’t need heavy armour, making it much lighter. The forces can avoid targeted roads where snipers and attacks are expected. With more armour comes more weight, so these lighter vehicles are perfect for air transport.
The ultimate in off-road carriers: Bright orange or yellow and unique in appearance, the tracked vehicles stood out at CANSEC’s outdoor display. A prototype, the Voyager Tracked Carrier claims to be the ultimate in multi-task off-road carriers. It’s a crossover design, for both civilian and military use. The Voyager has the power to move a 10-ton payload at 32 kilometres per hour and can climb a 40-degree slope. Plus, it has a track and suspension design that allows it to go almost anywhere. The Voyager was one of the many defence products at CANSEC looking to attract interest and potential buyers.
Best-dressed Armoured vehicles: If style and fashion were the most important aspects of a CANSEC exhibitor, INKAS’s armoured cars would be at the top of the best-dressed list. Located near the dining hall, INKAS had two all-black vehicles on display: an armored GMC Yukon Denali and the INKAS Sentry APC, a tactical attack and defence vehicle meant to serve in extreme climate conditions. The choice of vehicles and the black colour was probably for aesthetic, because this exhibit was one of the coolest ones.
New choppers for the CCG: According to a Fisheries and Oceans Canada press release, “In an average year, the Coast Guard’s helicopter fleet flies 7,000 hours; performs over 8,400 flights; transports more than 22,700 persons; carries a payload of more than 11.2 million pounds; and completes more than 3,500 external load lifts, carrying cargo suspended by a cable from the helicopter.” So, they certainly need helicopters that can help them perform their essential tasks. In 2015, the federal government awarded a contract valued at $156-million to Bell Helicopter, with the intention of replacing the Canadian Coast Guard’s old fleet. At CANSEC, the CCG exhibited one of these new red Bell 412 helicopters (below in foreground) for the very first time.
Memorable rapid deployment Shelter: The outdoor experience at CANSEC offered various impressive elements. The ROBUS (above in background) shelter’s size was prominent and its rapid, upward deployment made it seem to be levitating towards the sky. The mobile, self-erecting shelter claims to be “the ultimate rapid deployment shelter solution.” It takes one to two people to deploy it — the guys at CANSEC did so easily, while dressed in three-piece suits — and done in under 10 minutes. It handles winds up to 200 kilometres per hour, and is mobile thanks to a trailer system. Highly customizable, as many of the products at CANSEC were, it can be adapted to specific needs. As far as tents at CANSEC are concerned, this one was memorable.
Homegrown talent: Among all the impressive exhibitors, such as Thales or CAE, with their coffee machines and goodies to take home, a nod to the smaller guys is in order. Many of the smaller booths showcased important products that, perhaps small in size, power impressive-looking technologies. Perhaps less exciting, they are essential components. Analytic Systems is a Canadian company based in Vancouver, B.C. that provides power converters and inverters to a market composed of 70 per cent military clients. Their products are designed and manufactured in-house, which allows them to make changes easily. Its largest market is in the U.S., but products are sold worldwide.
Virtual Small-arms trainers: The flight simulator was not the only interesting simulation at CANSEC. Meggitt’s training systems were on display, such as the FATS100MIL, a virtual small-arms trainer, currently under test with NATO. Meggitt produces and manufactures training solutions for the military, law enforcement, the federal government and some commercial ranges. Their small-arms trainers have been used by the Canadian Armed Forces for 20 years. Meggitt has over 75,000 live-target training systems installed on 122 military bases around the world. It also develops and manufactures range trajectory and control systems. Its land-based virtual training simulator was on display during the two-day show, and was perfect for those who have a fear of flying or suffer from vertigo.
Digital vision in changing environments: For all things communications, look no further than Rockwell Collins. Their Integrated Digital Vision System is a technology akin to night goggles, but offers greater options because it is adaptable to different environments. The various night-vision sensors allow for situational awareness to support day, night and environments where obstacles and weather affect vision. It uses incoming data from various sources, such as a command centre, other fighters, or drones, to offer a complete view of what is happening. Knowing exactly where friend or foe are located while wearing the headset allows for more effective and quick decision-making during missions, and the ability to fight at night. This is only one of the many examples of how technological advancement in communications and data is useful for military purposes.
Canadian Army’s newest vehicle: Textron Systems was there along with their Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle (TAPV). According to a flyer, “The TAPV is a 4x4 wheeled armoured vehicle specifically engineered and designed to provide survivability, mobility and versatility across the asymmetric battlefield over the full spectrum of operations.” The TAPV is designed in a way that it can be configured for a wide range of missions, such as patrol, convoy protecting, mortar carrier, ambulance, personnel carrier, etc. And, after months of situational testing, the TAPV is now ready to serve the Canadian Army.
DOGO is the perfect watchdog: If you passed by the Twenty20 Insight booth, you may have been intrigued by a Shih Tzu sized-tank guided by a remote control. But though it can pass as a toy due to its small size, this robot tank is far from it. It was designed by Israeli company General Robotics and released in 2016. It has tactical combat and attack capabilities when armed with a 9mm Glock pistol and is designed to operate in rough outdoor terrain, engage targets and can even climb stairs. By touching the target on the remote-control screen, the weapon can be fired. It’s apparently user-friendly, but not a product you’d want to see children manoeuvre. No worries there as it’s only available to military, defence and law enforcement. DOGO sounds like “dog” for a reason. The name stems from its intended purpose: to be the perfect watchdog. Seems like remote-controlled vehicles are no longer just for child’s play. Certainly, the DOGO’s petite size was a welcome contrast to all the large-scale vehicles and technologies present at CANSEC this year. (Go on YouTube to see a video of the DOGO in action, intense music and dramatization included.)
No shock Taser testing: Rampart brought out one of its creations to CANSEC: a taser tester. Designed to improve workplace safety for users of conducted energy weapons (CEWs), the CEW Testing Chamber can be used to conduct daily function tests of electroshock weapons. Unlike most of the YouTube videos of people testing tasers on one another, with the Testing Chamber there is no risk to the shooter.
Paintballs for the pros: In 2017, PepperBall is introducing more products than it has in its 20-year history, and in May it returned to CANSEC to showcase them. The product which really stuck out was the coloured projectiles that were created to provide law enforcement with safer, non-lethal alternatives when dealing with dangerous situations. The round projectiles (which come in different strengths and sizes) are similar to paintball pellets, but when shot and hit their target, release pepper spray, temporarily incapacitating the victim.
Ballistic protection for first responders: DEW Engineering and Development brought out its ballistic door panels. Used extensively by police departments across the United States, this DEW PD series converts ordinary police vehicle doors into ready-to-use protective shields. The panels are placed between the interior and outer parts of the doors, and can be customized for different applications, such as the protection of panel vans, shelters, containers and so on. This provides first responders with ballistic protection against even armour-piercing rifle ammunition.
Dual Function at the push of a button: In 2012, the Canadian Army chose Kongsberg’s Protector Dual Remote Weapon Station (DRWS) for the Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle program, and in 2017 Kongsberg displayed this at CANSEC. The weapon station is remotely controlled and can be mounted on any type of platform. This particular model includes the use of two weapons, and also provides a dual user functionality (Gunner/Commander). Switching between weapons can be done with the push of a button.
Shock-absorbing clothing: The Dutch company Xion produces a selective range of blunt trauma, impact-protective garments that are specifically suitable for specialist operators within law enforcement (and other related fieldwork). Their products range from jackets and shirts, to pants and shorts — all of which are powered by D3O’s shock absorbing protection solutions. D3O is a patented technology with a molecular structure, which allows it to remain soft and flexible while providing ultimate protection from shock.
Military grade utility vehicles: BRP custom-makes defence vehicles based on the demands of the industry. Whether it’s law enforcement, search and rescue, or commercial, BRP can modify, accessorize and customize based on the client’s needs. BRP showcased the new 2017 Outlander MAX XT 850, which offers all-terrain performance. The company plans on launching other new models this year as well.
360-degree protection from RPGs: QinetiQ brought out its solution for defeating rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). Q-Net II is a protective net which can be attached to a wide range of tactical and lightly armoured vehicles, as well as fixed sites, to protect against rocket-propelled grenades. This technology has the highest RPG defeat performance in the world for lightweight passive systems, provides multi-hit protection, and is configurable on any platform.