Obst to shape Rockwell Collins’ Canadian strategy
Rockwell Collins cut the ribbon on an expanded facility in Ottawa in February, signalling an increased commitment to Canadian aerospace and defence. The company is probably best known for its avionics systems – if it flies, it likley has a Rockwell Collins system on it – but an increased presence in the land and maritime domains is clearly part of its long-term plans.
The company unveiled the newly renovated office space at a ceremony attended by military customers and industry partners, and provided a rare look at some of its leading innovations. The Ottawa facility specializes in the design and development of wireless, ad-hoc networking technologies.
In particular, the company demonstrated its Sub-Net Relay (SNR) technologies currently being used by the Royal Canadian Navy to establish Internet-Protocol networks over wideband HF and UHF frequencies for simultaneous tactical data exchanges, chat and enhanced situational awareness, and its work with General Dynamics Canada to embed SNR technologies in the Army’s combat net radio. It also highlighted its satellite-in-a-suitcase systems.
It has also made inroads with the RCMP through a product known as iForce, which integrates radio, electronics and computer functions into a single system for law enforcement vehicles.
Key to future Canadian business is the appointment of a new managing director. Johnathon (Lee) Obst, a former F-18 pilot with 21 years of service in the RCAF, returns to Ottawa after over a decade in business development roles within Rockwell Collin’s U.S. operations.
Thierry Tosi, the company’s vice president and managing director for the Americas, said the company’s research showed growth potential for the Canadian market, but they needed a “Canadian with a military background … who knows the industry” to shape its strategy.
Obst said business has already doubled since Rockwell Collins established an Ottawa presence in 2006 after acquiring IP Unwired. “We hope this expansion is the first of many across the region to better serve our growing Canadian customer base.”
To buy American or Italian
Alenia Aermacchi may have poured cold water on a possible solution to Canada’s fixed wing search and rescue aircraft conundrum.
In a recent statement, Giuseppi Giordo, CEO of the Italian maker of the C-27J, warned the U.S. government the company would not support any aircraft it had previously sold to the U.S. if the Americans decide to resell them to other nations.
The planes in question were originally sold to the U.S. Army as part of a $6 billion program for light transport aircraft. L-3 Communications served as the prime contractor. The Air Force took over the program in 2009 and the 145 C-27Js were reduced to 38. In its 2013 budget request, the Air Force opted to end the program at 21 aircraft and retire the fleet next year. So far 12 have been delivered, four are in final assembly and testing, and five are in production.
The USAF has not said yet what it will do with the 21 planes – selling, parking or transferring to other serves are all possibilities – but according to reports, DND has been window shopping. The C-27J was thought to be the preferred choice of the Royal Canadian Air Force for the FWSAR program, which is once again moving to the front burner.
When the Canadian program was first announced in 2004, it called for 15 aircraft. Alenia, which in addition to its U.S. order has already sold small quantities of C-27Js to seven countries, has identified almost a dozen more nations, including Canada, as potential buyers and does not want the U.S. to undercut its market.
The C-27J is one of several options likely to be on the table when the Canadian government announces a competition, possibly later this spring. Lockheed Martin, EADS, Viking Air and Bombardier will all be in the running, as might the Boeing V-22 Osprey.
Canada signs up for satellite system
Secure communication systems are the backbone of today’s networked operations. At present, the Canadian Forces purchases communications bandwidth as required from commercial satellites for about $25 million per year. But with cyber security and the movement of ever-greater data a growing concern, and costs expected to climb significantly over the next two decades, a dedicated government network is required.
In January, Canada signed onto the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) System, an international partnership developing a global satellite communications system of up to 10 satellites that includes Australia, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States.
The buy-in will cost Canada $337.3 million, but the memorandum of understanding assures the CF 20 years of access in both the X and Ka-band frequencies for military communications systems across the globe.
Four satellites have already been launched and are in operation, and a fifth is scheduled for launch later this year. Canada’s participation will provide Boeing, the satellite builder, with funding for construction of a ninth satellite. In January, Boeing received authorization from the U.S. Air Force to produce and launch the eighth and ninth satellites, 13-kilowatt spacecraft based on Boeing’s model 702 commercial satellite.
Boeing will also be subject to an IRB obligation valued at $240 million or 100 percent of Boeing’s share of Canada’s contribution to the WGS system, known in the CF as the Mercury Global project.
Dumping batteries for wearable power
Power generation and storage: it was a common theme throughout the Soldier System Technology Roadmap process in 2010. From a workshop dedicated to the topic to presentations on future sensors, weapons and communications, eventually the discussion always reverted to power.
Dismounted soldiers often carry over 50 batteries to power portable devices, disposing of most after using less than half of their life. The added weight and mounting waste and cost must be addressed in future soldier systems.
In February, DND took a key step, issuing a call for a wearable integrated power system. The RFP said the department’s vision is “a low-weight, energy-efficient backbone for data and power exchange upon which soldiers can easily plug in mission specific devices.”
DND has sponsored R&D efforts in the past, including PowerWalk, an athletic knee brace-like system by Bionic Power, an R&D venture based at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, that generates an average of 12 watts of electricity walking at a average pace.
More recently, scientists with BAE Systems demonstrated what they call “structural batteries,” a merger of battery chemistries with composite materials that can be moulded to form the structure of a device. The device can be recharged from conventional or renewable power sources and might eventually be incorporated into fabrics.
Kelowna-based ArmorWorks received a $9.5 million contract from General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada for the production of seating and add-on armour for Canada’s LAV IIIs. GDLS-C received a $1.064 billion contract in October to upgrade the army’s Afghanistan-weary LAVs.
Pratt & Whitney Canada recently delivered its 75,000th engine, a PT6C-67C that was delivered to AgustaWestland for installation on the AW139, a helicopter AW believes may be a good fit for the Canadian Coast Guard medium twin program.
Montreal-based Esterline CMC Electronics will supply its TacView Portable Mission Display to L-3 Communications as the Situational Awareness Data Link (SADL) solution for U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopters.
The Canadian Coast Guard awarded Thales Canada a contract for a Flight Following System to provide improved helicopter tracking. The project includes installing flight following equipment in 22 helicopters.
Three Canadian firms will receive the first group of work packages for in-service support of 15 Boeing CH-47F Chinook helicopters. Boeing said that L-3 Communications MAS will provide technical publications; Raytheon Canada will oversee supply chain support; and L-3 Electronic Systems will deliver logistics support analysis.
Lockheed Martin completed painting on the final CC-130J for the RCAF. The aircraft, the last of 17, will be delivered in May following acceptance flights.
ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and Public Works have inked a deal for a multiphase design study for the Navy’s Joint Support Ship. In a release, the company said one possible design for the JSS “is a version of the German navy’s latest Berlin Class Task Group Supply Vessel.” The modified design, being developed by TKMS Canada in cooperation with Blohm + Voss Naval, will be considered together with an in-house design by DND, the Navy, and BMT Fleet Technology.
Montreal-based CAE has been awarded contracts to upgrade the CC-130H aircraft and CH-146 helicopter simulators to accommodate a crew station position for the air combat systems operator to support search-and-rescue and air-to-air mission training.