An anniversary unacknowledged
As National Defence issues yet another update on the status of its Maritime Helicopter Program, a little noticed anniversary is quietly approaching. The EH 101 – the Cadillac helicopter Prime Minister Jean Chretien once deemed too expensive to replace Canada’s Sea Kings – is turning 25 this year.

The maritime helicopter, now known as the AW 101, took its first flight on October 9, 1987, and has been in service since 2000 with the U.K. and Italian navies. Canada, of course, flies the CH 149 Cormorant variant for search and rescue, which incidentally is marking its 10th anniversary since reaching initial operating capability.

In a presentation to the Ottawa-Montreal chapter of the American Helicopter Society in April, Jeremy Tracy, head of region in Canada for AgustaWestland, recalled the 101’s early trials involving nine prototypes before it officially took flight.

So perhaps Sikorsky can take heart. In early August, the fourth interim CH 148 Cyclone arrived at 12 Wing Shearwater. Designated MH 807, it joins two others as part of a contractual obligation to provide initial cadre training to aircrews and technicians. One of the four Cyclones, MH 806, has since been returned to Sikorsky for modifications. However, DND has yet to take formal delivery of any of the interim helicopters, saying in an update on August 3 that “some critical work remains outstanding.”

Initial deliveries for the much criticized procurement program were expected in November 2008, and subsequent due dates in 2010 and 2012 have since been missed. Much will be riding on Sikorsky’s ability to resolve its issues soon, because a far more inauspicious anniversary is in store for 2013 – the 50th year since Canada began taking possession of its Sea Kings in 1963.

Eyeing the Surface Combatant ESI competition
As one of the largest sensor providers to the Royal Canadian Navy, Thales Canada has its sights set on the much anticipated electronic systems integration (ESI) competition for the Canadian Surface Combatant.

Although the focus at the moment is on the Arctic offshore patrol ships – Irving Shipbuilding is now under contract to assess the various AOPS designs and specifications – determining the ESI provider for the CSC represents one of the next crucial contracts in the government’s shipbuilding strategy.

With up to 60 percent of the cost of each ship in electronic systems, “it will be a big opportunity for the marine electronics industry,” acknowledged Conrad Bellehumeur, Thales’ vice president of government and external relations.

Thales is part of the Seaspan team and already the ESI for the Joint Support Ship and the Coast Guard vessels; it’s also hoping to be a supplier to Irving for AOPS sensors.

As the provider of the Interdepartmental Maritime Integrated Command, Control and Communications (IMIC3) project – a joint effort by the RCN and Coast Guard – Thales believes it is well positioned to deliver the CSC’s combat management, integrated communications and navigation systems.

Where humans fear to tread
Ultra Electronics Marine Systems has created a first: a robot that can navigate underground and underwater entirely wireless, with a video backlink for its controllers.

The latest in a developing field of unmanned robotics, this new through-the-earth (TTE) technology has the capability to remove Canadian Forces and first responders from dangerous environments, while allowing them to explore places they cannot physically reach.

A first trial took place in an abandoned coal mine in Nova Scotia earlier this year, where Ultra carried out a test run of its new prototype system. Aboveground operators were able to command and control the robotic vehicle approximately 100 feet under the ground. The robot, nicknamed “Maggie” for its Magneto-Inductive wireless communication link between robot and operator, was successfully manoeuvred from above the surface, while sending video back to the operators from an on-board camera.

Ultra’s TTE technology allows operators to send the robotic vehicle into tunnels, culverts, buildings, basements or under the water. Its backlink capability provides communications ability without having to worry about trailing a tether or attaching fibre optic cable, said Leo Gaessler, Ultra’s vice president of marketing and sales.

Being able to wirelessly control vehicles from afar means removing soldiers, police officers and first responders from danger zones, and has the potential for improved IED, intelligence and underwater applications. “Often military forces and first responders are not 100 percent sure of the conditions they expect to encounter. The TTE technology gives them the confidence they will be able to communicate under the ground or into the water and avoid the risk of losing contact with headquarters or the rest of the team,” Gaessler said.

Ultra’s TTE technology can be added or incorporated into current unmanned robotics platforms.

— Daniela Fisher

Lockheed Martin has authorized Cascade Aerospace as a C-130 Heavy Maintenance Centre, just the second such facility in the world. Cascade is currently a Hercules Service Centre and conducts in-service support for Canada’s legacy CC-130 and new CC-130J fleets. Lockheed Martin delivered the final of 17 CC-130J aircraft to the RCAF in May.

The Ottawa-based Professional Services division of CAE was awarded a contract for simulation services to support experiments, mission rehearsals, demonstrations, exercises, and operational and maintenance training. The Canadian Forces’ Canadian Advanced Synthetic Environment (CASE) project is expected to be a majority user of the contracted services, as it develops a nationwide network of simulation-based synthetic environments for mission rehearsal, tactics training and force development.

Canada’s new Boeing CH-147F Chinook helicopter took its first flight on June 24. The inaugural flight lasted more than 80 minutes and confirmed the initial airworthiness of the aircraft, including its new electrical system and advanced Common Avionics Architecture System cockpit. The RCAF are scheduled to take delivery of 15 Chinooks, beginning in 2013.

AirPatrol, the latest generation airborne satcom terminal from EADS subsidiary Astrium, has finished testing in Canada and is now “flight proven.” It commenced flight trials with National Defence as part of the RIFL2E (Radar and Imaging for the Land/Littoral Environment) coastal surveillance project.

Burnaby-based Houle Electrical was awarded a $1.1 million contract to modernize key electrical equipment at Naval Radio Station Aldergrove. NRS provides long-range radio communications support to the RCAF and RCN in the Pacific and Arctic regions.

Irving Shipbuilding has signed a preliminary $9.3-million contract with the federal government to conduct a review of the existing Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) design and specifications and create an execution strategy for the project.

Saskatoon-based SED Systems has won a $5.1-million subcontract to supply power control for the Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) III upgrade project under a subcontract from General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada.

Montreal-based Esterline CMC Electronics launched its new Cockpit 4000 NexGen technology demonstrator at the Farnborough Air Show. The avionics suite is a configurable, fully integrated glass cockpit solution for advanced military trainers, ISR and light attack aircraft.

Pylon Electronics of Ottawa received a two-year contract worth $5.98 million for the calibration, adjustment and associated repair and overhaul of various electronic and physical properties at DND units in Ontario, Quebec and the Prairies.