Canada's future aerospace needs: a preview of CANSEC 2015

By David Pugliese

A Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft sits on the tarmac after delivering aid and supplies to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines during Operation RENAISSANCE in November 2013. Canada’s four CC-177 Globemaster III strategic airlifters were delivered in 2007-2008. (DND)

A Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster III aircraft sits on the tarmac after delivering aid and supplies to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines during Operation RENAISSANCE in November 2013. Canada’s four CC-177 Globemaster III strategic airlifters were delivered in 2007-2008. (DND)

Those attending CANSEC 2015 with an eye for aerospace capabilities will have a choice of the familiar as well as the new when they tour the Ottawa trade show May 27–28.

Industry is keen to proceed with the three major RCAF procurement projects on the near horizon — the CF-18 fighter jet replacement, the new fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft, and an acquisition of a family of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

 

FWSAR … On the horizon

The Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) project has over the years brought out numerous exhibitors to CANSEC. Contenders for the project, which has dragged on since the early 2000s, have been whittled down.

Boeing/Textron, which had promoted the V-22 Osprey at previous CANSECs, appeared to have halted its marketing efforts. (The firm brought a V-22 fuselage to CANSEC 2012 and held briefings aimed at countering concerns that the V-22 is too expensive for Canada.) Viking, another CANSEC exhibitor, has also dropped out of the FWSAR race.

The remaining three are Lockheed Martin with its C-130J, Airbus with its C295 and Alenia Aermacchi with the C-27J.

Dubbed Team Spartan, the partners include Alenia Aermacchi, General Dynamics Canada (ISS 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 Solutions (automated flight reporting system), Rolls Royce (engines), and Standard Aero (maintenance of Canadian fleet of FWSAR engines).

CANSEC visitors can expect to see each firm promote specific aspects of what they can contribute to FWSAR and other projects.

Last year, the team was present in the Finmeccanica booth with a full-size model of the C-27J as well as a video and graphic images depicting the C-27J's capability to operate in harsh weather environments. The team also had a presence in the General Dynamics Canada and Kelowna Flightcraft booths, and was a show sponsor of the event.

Airbus Defence and Space, offering the C295, has its own team: Provincial Aerospace, the main Canadian in-service support partner; Pratt & Whitney Canada, which will provide engines for every aircraft; CAE, which manufactures simulators and training devices; Vector Aerospace which performs engine maintenance and overhauls; and L-3 WESCAM, which produces the electro/optical sensors or the “eyes” of the aircraft.

The other main contender to provide aircraft for FWSAR is Lockheed Martin. It has indicated it would bid the C-130J, which is already in the RCAF’s inventory as a tactical transport aircraft. The company has been promoting the fact that it has a proven product which already has an established maintenance record and parts system within the RCAF.

Lockheed’s partners will also be at CANSEC 2015. In 2012, Lockheed and Cascade Aerospace, headquartered in Abbotsford, British Columbia, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly pursue “mutually beneficial business opportunities,” including FWSAR.

Cascade Aerospace is also partnered with Lockheed Martin to support the RCAF C-130J fleet under a 20-year contract and it also provides fleet management services directly to the RCAF for its legacy C-130 Hercules fleet. In addition, Cascade is also only one of two authorized Lockheed Martin C-130J Heavy Maintenance Centers in the world.

 

JUSTAS … Back on the radar?

Another air force program that will see some interest from exhibitors is the Joint Uninhabited Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS). Like FWSAR, the JUSTAS program has fallen far behind its original schedule.

But there could be some movement on the acquisition of the UAV family. “The implementation approval and the contract award are scheduled to occur between 2019 and 2020,” said RCAF spokesman Capt. Alexandre Munoz.

This competition still receives interest from both MacDonald Detwiller, which has promoted a variant of the Israeli-made Heron UAV, and General Atomics with a version of its Reaper UAV.

CAE has highlighted in the past at its CANSEC booth the firm’s potential role in JUSTAS. CAE has joined forces with General Atomics and will not only provide training systems, but systems integration and logistics support as well.

A United States Air Force Predator fires a Hellfire missile. First flown in 1994, General Atomics' Predator was the first-ever weaponized UAV and featured precision air-to-ground weapons delivery capability.

A United States Air Force Predator fires a Hellfire missile. First flown in 1994, General Atomics' Predator was the first-ever weaponized UAV and featured precision air-to-ground weapons delivery capability.

 

CF-18 Replacement Program

As with previous shows, companies plan to highlight their role in ongoing RCAF programs. For instance, Boeing has its successful CH-147F Chinook helicopter project for the RCAF and the delivery of C-17s. Boeing has also received an order for a fifth C-17.

Lockheed Martin has its successful and on-time delivery of the RCAF’s C-130J fleet.

Both Lockheed Martin and Boeing will also use CANSEC 2015 to remind Canadian industry and military personnel that their aircraft are the two top contenders for selection as the new RCAF fighter jet.

Lockheed Martin pushes the technology aspect of its F-35 and its “fifth generation” capabilities.

Boeing has been highlighting not only the cost effectiveness of its Super Hornet, but also the value of having a competition for a new fighter jet.

Companies that could contribute to the F-35 are also highlighting their capabilities. Nammo, for instance, produces ammunition specifically for the F-35. The Nammo 25mm APEX ammunition is designed to counter a range of threats and is a next-generation armour-piercing, high explosive round.

 

CC-138 Twin Otter Replacement

Also on the horizon are two projects related to the RCAF’s Twin Otter aircraft, an acquisition that will draw CANSEC exhibitors.

The Twin Otters had been previously outfitted with modern avionics to keep them flying beyond 2015. Kelowna Flightcraft has a contract for the maintenance of both the CC-115 Buffalos and CC-138 Twin Otter fleets.

But the RCAF wants to eventually purchase what it is calling a Utility Transport Aircraft (UTA) for operations in the Arctic. The aircraft will replace the 40-year-old Twin Otters but will not get underway until around 2025.

Still, Viking Air Ltd. of Sidney, British Columbia, has promoted its Twin Otter Guardian 400 as a Canadian-made solution for the country’s Arctic security requirements.

In addition, other work can be expected for companies through a life extension program for the Twin Otters, which will keep the aircraft operationally effective until the UTA enters service, RCAF spokesman Maj. James Simiana said.

The life extension project will replace the Twin Otter’s wing boxes, install cockpit voice recorders/flight data recorders, and will provide improvements to enhance aircraft supportability. In addition, high-frequency radios and aircraft spares will be acquired, along with improvements to existing training devices.

The preliminary cost of the project is between $20 million to $49 million. The RCAF expects that a request for proposals will be released this year and a contract awarded in 2016. Final delivery of the upgraded Twin Otters would take place in 2020.

 

MAISR Program

Those firms looking to provide the RCAF with what is being called the Manned Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (MAISR) Procurement Project are also expected at CANSEC 2015.

This project will involve the acquisition of a small fleet of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. Each of the four aircraft that will be purchased will be outfitted with a signals intercept capability and sensors to target movement on the ground. The planes would be operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force, but would be mainly used to support Canadian special forces operations.

L-3 is among the firms interested in providing systems for such a capability.

At CANSEC 2014, Boeing had been promoting its Reconfigurable Airborne Multi-Intelligence System (RAMIS) for the project. RAMIS can provide an array of payloads, including a ground moving target indicator (GMTI) as well as communications intercept capabilities. The aircraft being marketed by Boeing has four payload bays for maximum flexibility and optimum sensor mix.

In addition, the aircraft has plug-and-play software and sensors that can be quickly added or removed. Boeing brought the RAMIS production prototype aircraft to Ottawa in August 2014 for a demonstration for Royal Canadian Air Force officers. Chief of the Air Staff LGen Yvan Blondin was among those on hand for the demonstration.

 

CH-146 Griffon life extension project

Also moving through the acquisition process is the project to extend the life of the CH-146 Griffon to 2030 or possibly beyond. Companies are looking at a project worth more than $1 billion. A request for proposals is expected next year with a contract award in 2017.

Vector Aerospace of Langley, British Columbia, has already expressed interest in bidding. At CANSEC 2013 the company displayed its CH-146 Griffon Cockpit Demonstrator. The company noted that its solution would enhance crew efficiency and situational awareness by upgrading analog instruments and gauges.

 

Flight Training Jackpot for Industry

The big prize looming on the horizon for defence firms is the future Canadian Forces’ pilot training program. The defence department’s Defence Acquisition Guide lists the contract as greater than $1.5 billion, plus it is expected to bring in billions of dollars worth of work over the coming years.

Christyn Cianfarani, president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), the organization behind CANSEC, said she expects exhibitors who are interested in that training contract to highlight their capabilities at this year’s trade show even if the deal is still years away.

The current $2.8 billion NATO Flying Training Contract (NFTC) expires in 2021 at which point Canada will look at various options for pilot training. It could extend the existing contract, open bids on a new but similar flight training program, or combine NFTC and another training program, the Contracted Flying Training and Support (CFTS) project, military officers have said.

CFTS provides the Canadian Forces with primary flight training, and specialized helicopter and multi-engine fixed-wing pilot training. That contract, worth $1.7 billion, was awarded in 2005 to Kelowna Flightcraft Ltd., leading a consortium of Canadian companies known as Allied Wings. CFTS expires in 2027.

The Department of National Defence held initial consultations last year with aerospace firms but has yet to decide on how to proceed on a future flight training program.

Mike Greenley, vice president and general manager for CAE Canada – Defence and Security, said the firm intends to bid on the air training contract in whatever form it takes.

We would fully expect to be a key or primary player in all that,” he explained.

CAE is in the process of purchasing Bombardier’s training organization and will become the prime contractor responsible for the NATO Flying Training in Canada program, something it will highlight at CANSEC 2015.

In addition to flight training is the possibility of the acquisition of a new jet training aircraft to replace the current fleet of BAE Systems CT-155 Hawk aircraft.

Among potential options would be an upgrade of the existing Hawk fleet or the acquisition of aircraft such as Korean Aerospace’s T-50 Golden Eagle, BAE's Hawk 128 (the new advanced jet trainer for the RAF and Royal Navy) or Alenia Aeronautica's M-346 Master.

 

Looking to the future …

Farther into the future will be the CP-140 Aurora replacement known as the Canadian multi-mission aircraft or CMA.

Although the multi-billion dollar CMA program doesn’t get underway in earnest until 2021, Kelly Williams, senior director of strategy and government relations at General Dynamics Canada, told Esprit de Corps that it is not too early to highlight potential products or systems that could be outfitted on such an aircraft. “The planning for that aircraft will soon start, so it’s important to at least identify what contributions can be made,” he said.

For a number of years the Boeing Company’s CANSEC booth has highlighted the P-8A Poseidon aircraft as a potential candidate for the Canadian program. (DND has in the past rejected the Poseidon as too expensive, but that decision could be reviewed or reversed depending on future funding.)

In addition, Bombardier has also highlighted at CANSEC its various aircraft as potential CMA candidates or aircraft that could be used in coastal surveillance.

L-3 is promoting its reconfigurable multi-mission aircraft which would be based on Bombardier’s Q400 platform. It is collaborating with both Bombardier and Cascade Aerospace on that aircraft package.

 

Canadian technology in demand

Another aspect companies will be interested in promoting at CANSEC 2015 is the exportability of their technology, said CADSI’s Cianfarani. That attribute is one that the Canadian government and industry is keen to highlight, she added.

“You won’t see it necessarily as products to sell to our own government,” Cianfarani explained. “But companies will certainly be reminding the Canadian government of their export potential.”

Examples of that can be found with both Bell Helicopters of Mirabel, Quebec, and General Dynamics Canada of Ottawa.

In March 2014, the Philippine government announced it would spend more than $100 million to buy eight Bell 412EP helicopters as part of its military equipment renewal program. Five of the helicopters were configured for combat utility operations including relief efforts while the remaining aircraft were configured for VIP transportation

On October 27, 2014, General Dynamics Canada announced it had been awarded a multi-million-dollar contract to upgrade four SH-2G Super Seasprite helicopters with an integrated mission system for the Peruvian Navy. The Peruvian mission system will include General Dynamics’ sonobouy acoustics and stores management systems, providing the situational awareness needed to track a variety of targets.

Space operations is also an area for promotion at CANSEC 2015. MacDonald Dettwiler has its Radarsat Constellation Mission that is being developed for the government of Canada, including for use by the defence department.

General Dynamics Canada was recently awarded two contracts on DND’s Mercury Global project. The military satellite project will be tapping into a U.S. satellite system that will provide high speed, secure communications for deployed Canadian Armed Forces around the globe.

General Dynamics Canada will design and build a network of Mercury Global anchor stations for DND. A second contract provides ongoing in-service support for that system.