Archive for category MacDonald Dettwiler

Information leaking out about JUSTAS programme to provide Canada with drones

David Pugliese, writing in Defense News, has reported significant updates to the story of Canada’s drone acquisition saga.

Key new information includes:

1. One of the top military priorities is the capability of dropping material into arctic locations for search and rescue missions.

2. Another key priority is maritime patrol.

3. General Atomics, the company that produces the Predator drone, is interested in researching the idea of adding drop capacity to the company’s ‘Guardian’ drones, a variant of Predator.

4. Israel Aerospace Industries, through its Canadian agent MacDonald Dettwiler, is interested in selling Heron drones to the Canadian military for search and rescue. (Unstated whether this would be smaller Heron drones, or the larger Heron TP).

5. Global Hawk drones, of the type promoted by Northrup Grumman, would likely not be suitable for dropping search and rescue packages, but might be part of same search and rescue missions.

6. Canada’s military wants the capacity to conduct very long patrols over long distances in remote regions.

7. Total budget for drones appears to be about $1.5 billion.

The article also quoted a Liberal Party spokeperson who criticised the Department of National Defense for always wanting to have one piece of equipment that performs all functions, meaning that acquisition is delayed.

Still missing is information about whether the government actually plans to purchase one drone that fulfills all of its goals or whether it wants to purchase a number of different drones for different purposes. Also missing is any indication of government analysis about whether drones will actually improve the military’s capacity to perform any of its functions, or whether it would simply add a layer of expense and complexity without improving its ability to accomplish anything.

A key implication of the stated goal of dropping Search and Recue packages in the arctic is that the chosen drone might be a ‘MALE’ (medium altitude, long endurance) drone. The most likely providers of these would be General Atomics (‘Predator’ type drones), or the two Israeli companies Elbit Systems or Israel Aerospace Industries.

If Predator, then the Canadian government would be establishing a commercial link with the primary producer of attack drones used in targetted assassinations by the US in many ‘intervention’ zones around the world. This is worrying, given the Harper government’s known desire to acquire armed attack drones for use in foreign interventions. General Atomics has been busy forming alliances with Canadian companies to pursue JUSTAS procurements, and has a lobbying presence in Ottawa.

But both Israeli companies are likely contenders as well, given 1. that MacDonald Dettwiler (a Canadian company) has already provided rental Heron drones for Canada’s Afghanistan intervention mission, and 2. John Baird and other key members of the Harper cabinet are enthusiastic supporters of the apartheid regime in Israel and may influence decisions in that direction. There have been rumours that Baird will replace Peter Mackay as Defence Minister which could increase the probability of an Israeli purchase.

The emphasis on the need for very long patrols might be a tip of the hat towards General Atomic’s ‘Global Hawk’ drone, which claims that as its capability. (Given the very high cost of Global Hawk drones, a purchase of a few of these would blow DND’s budget and leave little or nothing for purchasing other drones). An article by Rob Cook discusses how high altitude variants of the Predator drone might perform some of the functions of a Global Hawk drone.

Project JUSTAS, the programme to acquire drones for Canada, is (by David Pugliese’s suggestion) already probably five years late. There is very little published information about the nature of the deliberations, about how the military decision makers plan to address their multiple goals. However in another David Pugliese article the head of the Canadian air force, Lt General Yvan Blondin claimed to be in no hurry to commit to a particular technology in a field where technological developments are coming quickly.

Nor has the Harper government tipped its hand about how it plans to achieve its political goals, which might include forcing the military to acquire armed attack drones and/or tipping the selection process towards Israeli companies. There might even be political suggestions out of right field, like developing domestically designed drones, or demanding industrial offset schemes from existing vendors.

A fleet of lobbyists have been engaged by most of the possible drone vendors, who are now probably doing their best to influence the relevant military and political figures.

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Israeli American and European Drone Lobbying of Canadian Government

Canada announced several years ago that it planned to acquire surveillance drones, and more lately indicated that it wanted to acquire armed ‘attack’ drones. It created the JUSTAS programme to manage part of the aquisition process, which has been discussed here before.

Several American and Israeli drone companies are registered to lobby the Canadian government. Because most of these companies have a variety of military products, and required reports of lobbying activity are often quite unspecific, it is difficult to determine how much of the lobbying relates to drones. In a given year some lobbyists may not lobby on a given project, but are presumably ready and able to lobby as required.

Also, the number of companies producing drones is proliferating, so might have escaped notice.

It is always disconcerting to discover how many former Canadian public servants now work for foreign enterprises lobbying the Canadian government, including the state owned corporations of other countries.

Elbit Systems, of Israel, has no fewer than  six lobbyists plying Canadian government officials, all working for CFN Consultants. Steven Irwin,  George Macdonald, Kevin O’Keefe, Charles Mclennan, Georges Rouseau, and George Butts, who are registered to lobby Department of National Defence, the Coast Guard, Public Safety Canada, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Steven Irwin had a long career with Department of National Defense Canada before becoming a lobbyist. George Macdonald was a high ranking Canadian officer until 2004. Kevin O’Keefe was a high ranking official in DND in the technical area. Charles Maclennan was a high ranking official in several Canadian government departments. Georges Rousseau was a high ranking military officer until 2008. George Butts was an official of a couple of government departments, including the Canadian Coast Guard.

Elbit Systems has several drone models for sale, including at least least two versions of the Hermes drone.

Israel Aircraft Industries, has five CFN lobbyists registered to lobby for them, including Kevin O’Keefe, Pierre Lagueux, Ian Parker, Gavin Scott and Greg Browning. Pierre Lagueux was a high ranking official in DND in ‘materiel’, until 1999. (His specific remit is listed as dealing with IAI’s wish to sell Canada its drones). Ian Parker was a high ranking naval officer until 2005. Gavin Scott was a government official dealing with supply until 2001. Greg Browning was a high ranking public official until 2008.

IAI has the Heron drone, and the Eitan for sale, among others.

General Atomics uses The Parliamentary Group, as its registered lobbyists, specifically Patrick Gagnon, a former Member of Parliament. General Dynamics lobbying efforts are specifically directed at the JUSTAS programme to acquire drones, presumably to sell its Predator or Reaper drones.

MacDonald Dettwiler, which has been an agent for IAI drones, maintains and active programme of lobbying government officials, but documentation does not show lobbying with respect to drones in the past year.

Raytheon International has several lobbyists with active registrations, including (from CFN Consultants) Steven Irwin, Kevin O’Keefe, Georges Rousseau, Charles Maclennan, Ian Parker, and Tony Goode. Ian Parker was a high ranking Canadian naval officer until 2005. Tony Goode was a high ranking military officer until 1996, with experience in positions in the US military.

Also with an active lobbyist registration is Jacques J. M. Shore, though Mr. Shore’s responsibilities do not seem to relate to lobbying with respect to drones. Thomas M. Culligan, Chief Executive Officer of Raytheon is also registered to lobby Canadian government officials.

Raytheon lobbyists are specifically tasked with lobbying relative to the JUSTAS programme.

Northrup Grumman has previouly promoted its Global Hawk drone to Canada. They have Meghan Spilka O’Keefe, former parliamentary assistant for Hon. Carolyn Bennet, MP, lobbying for them. She’s with Hill and Knowlton Strategies. Also Darcy Walsh who was once Director of Parliamentary Affairs PWGSC, Office of Minister Michael Fortier. Also Bruce Johnston, once a senior naval officer until 1996. Also Michael Coates, once Executive Assistant to Hon. Perrin Beatty, P.C., M.P. Also Goldy Hyder, once former Chief of Staff to Rt Hon Joe Clark. Also, Brian Fitch.

Pratt and Whitney Canada has registered to lobby with respect to Canada’s UAV policies, with at least three actively registered lobbyists, John Sabas CEO (and several PWC officers) involved in lobbying. Also, Richard A Morgan, formerly in the PMO, and Howard Mains, former government official, both of Tactix Government Consulting.

General Dynamics has a large number of registered lobbyists, but probably isn’t promoting a specific drone sale, although the company is pursuing drone related activities in Canada. .

EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company Canada) has Kenneth Pennie, KR Pennie Consulting, lobbying on its behalf. It isn’t clear whether EADS has any interest in selling Canada drones at present. It has the Baracuda drone, tested in 2009 at Goose Bay, NL,  and others. Pennie was Chief of Air Staff for the DND until 2005. EADS also has David Angus of  The Capital Hill Group lobbying for it. Until 1985 Angus was a liason officer in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Thales Canada, of France, has an active lobby effort, apparently headed by its President and CEO Paul Kahn. Thales has interests in several drone programmes, but the lobby documents don’t indicate whether they have been lobbying the Canadian government about drones. Thales may be trying to sell Canada its Watchkeeper drones.

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Australians complain about their training on drones

An article in the Ottawa Citizen, repeating information from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, showed that some members of the  Australian military are highly critical of the training received on Heron drones, rented through Macdonald Dettwiler, a Canadian company.

Australian Wing Commander Jonathan McMullan complained about ‘low experience civilians’ training highly experienced pilots.

The article did not make explicityly clear who provided the trainers. Macdonald Dettwiler, a Canadian company, provided the Heron drones to the Canadian and Australian military for use in Afghanistan, as an agent for Israeli Aerospace Industries, the manufacturer.

This article states that Macdonald Dettwiler Associates has a training contract with the Australian military, so perhaps we can guess that it is MDA that the Australian officer is complaining about.

The current contract between MDA and the Australian military to provide drones and training appears to end in December 2012. Three Heron drones rented from MDA had flown a total of 4600 flight hours by May, 2011. This extensive. A June 8, 2012 article from ABC online provides a wealth of details about Australia’s use of drones.

While Israel is not directly involved in the Afghanistan occupation, Israeli arms companies have provided weapons and trainers, including a range of drones to a variety of countries.

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Canada Scraps Drone Programme

In what has to be a surprise move, Canadian Forces has announced that its drone programme will end with the return of Canadian troops from Afghanistan in July, 2011. Task Force Erebus was a little discussed programme to provide aerial surveillance for Canadian troops in the field.

Canadian Forces leased Heron drones from Israel Aerospace Industries, an arm of the Israeli government run by Yair Shamir, son of the former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The programme was managed by IAI’s Canadian partner, MacDonald Dettwiler.

Major Dave Bolton, present commander of Project Erebus said that the squadron would be disbanded after the Afghanistan deployment. Bolton suggested that the programme would be in hiatus for a period of between two and five years, but that staff would still be available in the military to rejuvenate it.

This is quite a startling development. Most other militaries are expanding the role of drones in their militaries. While the Canadian military will have fewer uses for drones when not deployed internationally, it is surprising that they would give up much of the capability of having an operational drones squadron.

This begs many questions:

Is this part of a top down slashing of defence spending, perhaps to make way for costly new programmes like the F-35?

Is there another drones programme under wraps in Project JUSTAS?

Is the CF considering renting drone surveillance on an ad hoc basis from private contractors as required? (For example they might hire Israelis in places where having Israeli contractors on board would not provoke hostility).

Was the Heron drone so unsuitable or overpriced that CF wishes to wash its hands of the whole programme and begin anew?

These are questions unlikely to be answered quickly given the current Canadian government’s disinterest in providing information about its plans.

But it is a welcome development that the relationship with the Israeli arms industry will end.  The question is, with Israelis providing the most advanced drone technology, who will replace them?

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Heron drone crashes near Suffield

In July 2010 a Heron drone built by Israeli Aircraft Industries and operated by MacDonald Dettwiler, crashed near Suffield AB, after striking power lines.

This is just one of a number of crashes of drones worldwide that has made civilian populations uneasy about living under drones.

In 2009 a drone was involved in a ground incident with another object or vehicle.

While most crashes have been in remote areas, the plans to use drones for surveillance of civilian activities, makes their unreliability a concern.

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MacDonald Dettwiler seeks civilian uses for drones

MacDonald Dettwiler is seeking to develop a wide range of civilian uses for drones in Canada, presumably using Heron drones built in Israel by its partner Israeli Aircraft Industries.

Proposed uses would include pipeline monitoring, forest fire detection, agricultural and crop insurance monitoring.

Unstated is the potential for monitoring of all kinds, cheapening surveillance to the extent that a great deal surveillance of human activities happen.

Nor the boost for the Israeli arms industry that would result from civilian sales of more Heron drones. A matter of ploughshare sales boosting income for the sword manufacturers.

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MDA to hire drone operator/instructors for Canadian drones

MacDonald Dettwiler, the Canadian partner of Israeli Aircraft Industries, has posted a job vacancy for a ‘UAV Payload Operator Instructor’ .

Among the operator instructor’s roles would be to train additional operators, ab initio, (from ‘scratch’).

The candidate hired would have to train for four months in Israel, and be willing to deploy to Afghanistan.

Note  that there are no educational qualifications listed, but clearly the posting if intended for people who are already drone operators, and have a military/defence background.

The job was posted in May, 2010 and reposted in September, 2010, suggesting that MDA is having trouble filling the position.

The person hired would work with MDA employees already in Afghanistan.

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