Thursday, May 08, 2008

No Canadian predation in Afstan

Looks like we'll end up with an Israeli UAV (political fun there):
The world's top manufacturer of aerial drones is pulling out of a $93-million competition to supply surveillance equipment that Canada must acquire by next February as a condition of keeping soldiers in Afghanistan.

The move by U.S.-based General Atomics, which makes the well-known Predator drones, reduces the competition for the contract and could leave Ottawa hostage to only one possible supplier: Elbit Systems of Israel and its Hermes pilotless aircraft.

It will also make it more difficult for the Canadian Forces when it comes to interoperability with their U.S. partners in Afghanistan, because the Americans use General Atomics Predator drones for the same mid-level surveillance.

Under a Canadian Forces program called Project Noctua - Latin for owl - the military is in a hurry to lease pilotless surveillance aircraft for at least two years to help soldiers battle the Taliban in Afghanistan...

Sources say the deal breaker for General Atomics is that Ottawa wants the drones by January, 2009 - just six months after the contract is signed, which it contends is not possible.

General Atomics also warned Ottawa that the stipulations it has placed on the tender would expose a contractor to an unacceptable level of risk, adding that it's hard to believe any company that accepted its terms could provide the professional support needed for the program, sources say.

In combination with a hurried timeline, the contract includes big penalties worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars for missed deadlines.

Although Elbit and its partners plan to bid for the contract, it's not yet known whether a third company, Israel Aerospace Industries, might step forward...
More in an April 21 post by David Pugliese at his blog.

Update: More from Mr Pugliese:
This is interesting:
Here is part of the statement just sent to me by General Atomics from Thomas Cassidy, president of the company’s aircraft system group.

“We are focusing our efforts on the long-term JUSTAS program and intend to promote the multi-mission Predator B UAS. The purchase of Predator B offers the best value solution and ensures that Canada’s ISR needs are met today and far into the future...
JUSTAS stands for "Joint Unmanned Surveillance Target Acquisition System", a CF project that has been around for some time considering how to use UAVS for domestic maritime and northern surveillance (more on the project from last October). And something I'd forgotten: during the last election the Conservatives promised to base UAVs for that purpose at Goose Bay.

In February 2007 Mr Pugliese wrote that a leaked draft of the "Canada First Defence Strategy" proposed establishing a "Northern Sovereignty Support Centre" at Goose Bay, though the story made no mention of UAVs. And the "Canada First Defence Strategy" rolled out on May 12 says "nothing about UAVs for northern and maritime surveillance".

Getting those UAVs is one promise the Conservatives might consider working harder on, especially as our Aurora fleet is running down (more here). Though whether Goose Bay is the best place to base the aircraft, politics aside...


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