Monday, August 21, 2017

CAF wraps up three year mission in Poland

DND Press Release

On August 17,  the Land Task Force (LTF) in Poland completed its successful three-year mission on Operation Reassurance with an end of mission parade in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland.

Various rotations of troops have served on Canada’s LTF in Poland since May 2014, and have participated in military exercises throughout the region to improve interoperability with Allies and demonstrate NATO’s resolve to protect Alliance territories and partners. Op Reassurance refers to the military activities undertaken by the CAF since 2014 to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Eastern and Central Europe with the aim of reassuring nations in the region of NATO’s commitment to support their stability and security.

Canada will continue to support NATO Allies in Europe by leading the enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup (eFP BG), which was stood up in June 2017 at Camp Adazi, Latvia. Canada is one of four Framework Nations supporting NATO’s aim to preserve peace and prevent conflict in Eastern and Central Europe.

“Canada is a strong supporter of NATO and is committed to doing its part as a member of the Alliance. Over the last three years, the Land Task Force in Poland has demonstrated Canada’s commitment to security and stability in Central and Eastern Europe, and that commitment continues through our many activities under Operation Reassurance, ” said Lieutenant-General Stephen Bowes, Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command.

The last rotation of the LTF, which served in Poland for about six months, is comprised of about 200 CAF soldiers mainly from 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry out of Canadian Forces Base Edmonton, Alberta.

Following the LTF’s mission completion in Poland, the troops will redeploy to Canada while some of the equipment will be transferred to Latvia in support of the CAF led eFP BG.

CAF soldiers from the last rotation of the LTF took part in Exercise Allied Spirit VI in Hohenfels, Germany, from March 7 to March 30, 2017, working closely with soldiers from Allied countries and Partners for Peace.

From April 24 to May 4, 2017, an infantry company from the LTF participated in Exercise Platinum Eagle 17-2 hosted by the Romanian Land Forces in the Babadag Training Area, Romania.

A small team of snipers from the LTF took part in Exercise Spring Storm in Estonia from May 9 to 24, 2017. They trained with soldiers from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom under the lead of the Estonian Defence Forces.

The LTF took part in Exercise Sabre Strike from June 4 to 15, 2017, in Orzysz, Poland, which was hosted by the Polish Armed Forces. Units from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, and the United States, among others, also took part.

From July 13 to 24, 2017, the LTF participated in Exercise Saber Guardian. Under the US Army’s lead, troops from Canada, Greece, Italy, and Romania trained in air mobile and air assault operations in a global context.

Thales awarded 35-year RCN ISS contract

DND Press Release

Canada has chosen Thales as the prime contractor for In-Service Support (ISS), refit, repair, maintenance and training to both Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) and Joint Support Ships (JSS).

Known as AJISS, the contract includes an initial service period of eight years for up to C$800 million with options to extend services up to 35 years – for a total value of C$5.2 Billion, making it the largest ISS contract in Canadian history.

(As part of its 2017 order intake, Thales will book the management portion for the 1st phase of this contract at less than C$60 million.)

This contract builds on Thales’ experience in providing in-service support to every major Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) platform for the past 50 years, including ISS for systems onboard Victoria-class submarines, Kingston-class maritime coastal defence vessels, Iroquois-class destroyers, and Halifax-class frigates.
Artists Rendering of a RCN Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessel of the Harry DeWolf Class © Irving Shipbuilding Inc. 2015 
Thales will leverage its Canadian expertise in project management, systems engineering and integrated logistics support to lead the development of a new Canadian supply chain that will offer comprehensive in-service support for all systems and equipment of these fleets over their operational lifetime, ensuring they are mission-ready, on time, every time, from coast to coast to coast.

This in-service support contract will create an important collaboration with RCN staff. With such a contract, Thales will work closely with the Navy's support facilities and personnel.

Over its 35-year duration, this contract will generate economic benefit of more than $250 Million CAD in Research & Development for Canada, leveraging the creativity of both industry and academia and sparking innovation in areas such as predictive maintenance, life-cycle management and logistics support analysis.

With over 16 years of performance-based ISS experience with the Royal Australian Navy in a relational contracting model, Thales will also transfer knowledge of existing and innovative ISS-ready solutions from Australia to Canada. Since 1989, the Australian Government, with the Royal Australian Navy and industry, have trusted Thales to manage, maintain and upgrade its naval assets at the most important ship repair facility in the Southern Hemisphere, the Garden Island Naval Base in Sydney.

Thales’ proven and award-winning ship service and maintenance model has consistently exceeded material readiness requirements and exceeded operational availability targets by as much as 30 per cent. Thales has provided ISS to navies in Singapore, New Zealand, USA, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Papua and New Guinea, and Tonga.

Mark Halinaty, Thales' Country Director in Canada, remarked that the company is committed to "empowering Canadian industry to support this program for decades to come." He noted that through this contract, Thales "will create jobs across Canada and will ensure that the ships are mission-ready.”

CAF divers clear explosive remnants in the Baltic Sea

DND Press Release

Eleven Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) clearance divers and support personnel are participating in Operation Open Spirit 2017 in Latvia from August 18 to 31, 2017.

These CAF members come from the Fleet Diving Units (Atlantic and Pacific) in both Halifax, Nova Scotia and Esquimalt, British Columbia. They are working alongside personnel from the Latvian Naval Flotilla and 13 other partner nations. Their mission is to clear explosive remnants of the First and Second World Wars in the Baltic Sea.

Operation Open Spirit is a multinational naval mine clearance and ordnance disposal mission. It is hosted on a yearly rotational basis since 1997 by one of three Baltic nations – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It aims to reduce the threat of unexploded ordnance throughout the Baltic Sea region, including seabed communications lines, international shipping routes, and fishing areas.

Although the CAF’s participation in Operation Open Spirit 2017 is not part of Operation Reassurance, this deployment of Canadian experts in disposing sub-surface munitions demonstrates the CAF’s reinforced role in NATO and commitment with Allies and defence and security partners in the region. CAF members were previously sent to Latvia as part of Operation Open Spirit 2014.

Operation Open Spirit 2017 is taking place in the Territorial Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone of Latvia. The CAF members are operating from the naval base in Mikeltornis.

Lieutenant-Commander William Barter, Commanding Officer of Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic), is the Task Force Commander of Operation Open Spirit 2017.

Fleet Diving Units (Atlantic and Pacific) members are fully-trained in mine countermeasures, routine and emergency underwater repairs, seabed searches, dive equipment repair and maintenance, submarine rescue, dive training, and support to other government agencies.

Fourteen nations are participating in Operation Open Spirit 2017, including Belgium, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States. The Latvian Naval Flotilla is the lead for this year’s Open Spirit.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Opinion: Canada Should Consider Hybrid Submarines

By: Danny Lam, Frontline Defence

Outrageous cost estimates for nuclear-powered submarines tend to cloud Canadian thinking for recapitalizing its submarine fleet. The US Navy is presently building Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines for USD$2.6 billion per unit. At CAD $1.5 to $3B (assuming no cost overruns), DND’s proposal for extending the lives of its four Victoria class conventional submarines for another 6-18 years appears a comparative bargain. But there must be a better way.

Off-the-shelf submarine designs that are direct or equivalent replacements to the Victoria class, like the German Type 212s presently are in the 300 to 400 million euros range (U$350-470 million), Swedish Gotlands are in the U$200-300 million range, while the Japanese Soyru is around U$550 million. These costs are roughly comparable to the high end of extending the life of Canada’s existing fleet. However, they do not reflect foreign military sales “markup” and likely exclude the weapons suite – nor are these prices based on quantity.

If any of these candidates can be built in quantity – and an exception made to arcane Canadian military procurement rules that require the design to be manufactured wholly in Canada or have restrictive industrial and technological benefit demands – it is undeniably possible to substantially lower costs.

The first challenge to costs is volume. Development, or non-recurring engineering costs make up a sizable percentage of the cost of a small fleet. If an existing, proven, hull can be slightly modified, it is a major cost saver. That will require DND to end the habit of imposing onerous modifications that inevitably cause costs to explode like the CSC or Maritime Helicopter program. Another route to substantial cost savings is to share the development costs of major items like the propulsion and power plant with partners.

Nuclear propulsion was a major innovation in submarine technology. It significantly extends endurance to the point where it is limited only by food and consumables, and crew stamina.

Technologies like air independent propulsion (AIP) or lithium batteries that extend the endurance of diesel submarines but introduce major compromises in performance. But neither of these options are satisfactory for Canadian naval requirements.

With or without AIP, diesels are far too “short legged” – they are dependent on logistically complex supplies such as liquid oxygen that deplete quickly; and the engines are mechanically complex. These are distinct disadvantages given the long distances and extended under-ice missions that are unique to Canada.

Whenever a diesel “snorts”, it leaves a very visible plume of smoke and heat that is readily detectable. Radar can pick out periscopes or snorkels. Then there is the deafening noise of diesels, even when equipped with the latest quieting technologies. Thus, nuclear propulsion in some form is still the ideal for Canadian requirements.

The dominant paradigm for a modern nuclear-powered submarine is for a steam generating reactor driving turbines that directly drive the propulsor or propeller. The French Barracuda offers a limited hybrid design that enables electric propulsion for low speed cruising and turbo-mechanical drives at higher speeds. The Tullibee (SSN-597) and Glenard P. Lipscomb (SSN-685) were two nuclear-electricvessels that experimented with the technology, but it was not competitive against nuclear-steam turbo-mechanical for blue water operations. At the other end of the spectrum, a “mini” 400 ton nuclear submarine NR-1 was used for many key deep-ocean, bottom-exploration tasks.

Due to their endurance, nuclear submarines tend to be blue water, ocean-going vessels. Los-Angeles and Virginia class fast attack submarines displace 6-8,000 tons. French Barracudas are about 5,000 tons, UK’s Astutes are 7,000 tons, while the Shortfin Barracuda (conventional version) is about 4,000 tons. Compared to the Upholder/Victoria class at about 2,500 tons, they are large vessels.

A small nuclear-powered attack submarine that is large enough to support a good sized crew and carry unmanned systems would be ideal for Canada, but presently, none is available because nuclear submarines are historically optimized for stealth in blue water. Much of Canadian waters in the Arctic are relatively shallow, and along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts up to the continental shelf where Canadian submarines are most likely to operate. A fleet nuclear submarine (6-8,000 ton range) is neither necessary nor ideal for Canadian waters.

The dominant design for nuclear propulsion places a premium on sustained high speed, even though most submarines cannot do so while maintaining acceptable radiated noise levels. Sustained high speed, except for “getaway” or transit, is a capability that is rarely needed. Because nuclear reactors react relatively slowly to throttling, it also means that nuclear energy generates a large infra-red signature that is a much bigger liability in littoral vs. blue waters. Hybrids offer a novel solution.

A nuclear-steam-electric hybrid is a potentially attractive alternative to the dominant nuclear turbo mechanical drive. One or more modular reactors can be used to generate steam to drive a turbine generator. The ability to completely shut down a reactor module, and tightly match energy demand with supply, reduces the amount of excess (waste) heat dumped – don’t forget, that heat dump is detectable.

Machinery noise from the nuclear turbo-mechanical generator can be more readily controlled if the system is operated at (and optimized for a relatively narrow power band) with no requirements for rapid throttling as with a turbo-mechanical drive. Electricity generated can be stored in state-of-the-art lithium batteries. Reactor shielding can potentially make use of lead acid cells doing double duty. Electric power from batteries driving propulsors offer the prospect of extremely low radiated noiseand yet maintain a high degree of “throttlability” with only limited compromises in sustained high speed cruising that would be a function of the nuclear plant’s power ramp and maximum output. Making the propulsor jets steerable and eliminating control fins is an additional benefit in minimizing the active signature.

Building such a submarine within a small displacement (2,5-3,500 tons surfaced) 60 days endurance, transit speed of 20 knots, burst speeds above 30 knots, and state of the art signature management technologies and support for unmanned platforms would be cost prohibitive for all but the largest Navies.

Canada, however, has potentially very good technologies that can contribute to a joint venture for a new hybrid nuclear submarine design. The Canadian SLOWPOKE reactor has been operating in Canada since 1971 and is licensed for unattended operation. A later variant was rated for 2-10MW per module, just about ideal for a small nuclear-powered submarine. It is conceivable that the design can be freshened, miniaturized, compacted and “fitted” into an existing conventional submarine design displacing 2,500 to 4,000 tons, though quieting radiated noise of a small displacement submarine is challenging and require considerable ingenuity and technical competence.

Packaged with a turbo-generator plant, a SLOWPOKE reactor can also have many civilian applications such as being a steam generating plant for low GHG heavy oil extraction SAGD facilities, or a stationary energy plant for Northern communities. The more units deployed, the lower the fixed costs. That will also spread the political constituencies in favour of the program from just the coastal provinces to Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Nunavut, and NW Territories: A major consideration given the political fault lines in Canada for a multi billion dollar program.

If Canada contributed a major portion of the development cost of a new modular nuclear power plant for a hybrid submarine, it can be used to negotiate a good price on the vessel. It will also be the only small naval reactor / power plant available that can potentially also be used on surface vessels like the Canadian Surface Combatant or civilian vessels – reducing GHG emissions from shipping potentially opens up lucrative markets for Canadian nuclear technology. Who might partner with Canada?

Germany, Sweden, France, Japan, Australia are all potential partners. Each nation’s existing or planned submarine designs are potentially good candidates, in fact, the French are already working on a new hybrid Barracuda variant for Australia. A collaboration with Japan, which has begun work on its next generation submarines, can contribute certain technologies, like lithium ion batteries (in which they excel). Any of these would deliver a state-of-the-art nuclear-powered submarine for a fraction of the cost of “going it alone” or the Australian “built in Australia” technology transfer model. The key will be that the new co-developed hybrid nuclear submarine must find additional markets beyond the needs of the partners.

The question is, can such a new vessel be built in quantity (more than 20) for less than US$700 million a copy?

Success in this program will forever banish the ghost of the DeHavilland Arrow.

It will be challenging, but Canadian ingenuity is up to it.

– Danny Lam

Op NANOOK 2017 Kicks Off

DND Press Release

Operation Nanook 2017 begins today at locations in Labrador and Nunavut. Nearly 900 military and civilian participants will take part in the 10th iteration of Canada’s annual northern sovereignty operation.

Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, commits Canada to increase its presence and operational effectiveness in the North. Operation Nanook enables the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to continually enhance its ability to operate effectively in the North while improving coordination with whole-of-government partners in responding to northern safety and security issues.
28 Aug – Members of 1 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group demonstrate how to make an emergency shelter during survival skills training near Rankin Inlet, Nunavut during Operation Nanook 2016. (Photo: Petty Officer Second Class Belinda Groves)
“The highest level of safety and security in Canada’s North is essential and Joint Task Force (North) consistently strives to respond to all incidents, whether a natural disaster or protection of Canadian sovereignty. However, no single stakeholder is able to operate unilaterally in the vastness of Canada’s North; partnerships must be established and nourished in order to meet operational objectives. Operation Nanook 2017 will provide a unique opportunity for multiple agencies to work together to combat a notional threat to the security of the population of the Hamlet of Rankin Inlet, NU. The benefit of multi-agency planning, coordinated deployment and focused execution is enormous. It permits development of relationships and understanding of capabilities that is essential to ensure a timely response to a real life crisis,” said Brigadier-General Mike Nixon, Commander, Joint Task Force (North).

“The challenging and remote coastal zone of northern Labrador will test the ability of Joint Task Force Atlantic to command and control Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force elements in mobility, surveillance and security tasks. Capitalizing on synergies with other government departments, communities, and industries, defence and security can be assured across Canada’s vast northern regions,” said Rear-Admiral John Newton, Commander, Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force (Atlantic).

For the first time in its history, Operation Nanook 2017 is comprised of two scenarios conducted by two separate Regional Joint Task Forces.
  • In one scenario, conducted by Joint Task Force (North), the CAF will work with Other Government Departments and Agencies (OGDA) around Rankin Inlet, Nunavut to respond to a simulated barge fire and explosion.
  • In the other scenario, conducted by Joint Task Force Atlantic, CAF members will work with its OGDA partners to respond to a security scenario in northern Labrador.