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January 16, 2023 | Local, Aerospace

Purchase of new planes to replace 50-year Twin Otter military aircraft now on hold

A project to replace the 50-year-old Canadian military aircraft used in the Arctic is on hold despite the Liberal government’s claim it is committed to…

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  • Top Aces sees expanded role for red air as Air Force training evolves

    June 7, 2019 | Local, Aerospace

    Top Aces sees expanded role for red air as Air Force training evolves

    by Chris Thatcher The federal government's request for proposals for a next-generation fighter jet may be delayed until July, but the company that provides aggressor or “red air” training for the fighter fleet is already preparing for a more data-driven training environment. “More and more, that is how you fight: Take data, process data, share data, accomplish the mission,” said Paul Bouchard, a former CF-188 Hornet pilot and the president and CEO of Montreal-based Top Aces. “We have put a lot of thought into that.” In October 2017, Top Aces, then under the banner of Discovery Air Defence, edged out a joint venture between CAE and Draken International to retain the Contracted Airborne Training Services (CATS) contract, a program it pioneered in the mid-2000s. The 10-year deal is worth $480 million, but includes options that could extend the service to 2031 and the value to as much as $1.4 billion. Though the CATS contract cemented the company's footprint in Canada and strengthened its export potential, Bouchard said it will have to evolve to meet a changing training environment. “CATS is the largest program of its kind in the world today,” he told Skies during an interview at CANSEC on May 30. “That allows us to deliver the current service and have growth potential within that for Canada, which we think is really exciting given the next generation fighter and the future aircrew training program — as they roll out, there will be a need for more advanced training.” That will likely mean the addition of a more advanced aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-16A to the Top Aces fleet of Dornier Alpha Jets and Bombardier Learjet 35As, if the Royal Canadian Air Force acquires the Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter. “That is quite logical,” said Bouchard, though he noted that a decision on the next training jet for the Fighter Lead-In Training (FLIT) program could also be a factor in any future fleet. “What's interesting for Canada is whether they will treat programs like FLIT and advanced adversary as separate or combine them, because the capabilities required for both those aircraft could be quite similar,” he said. The company has invested significantly in a flexible and expandable proprietary mission system architecture for its aircraft to “effectively plug and play different applications or capabilities” as the Air Force, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Navy develop their digital networks and synthetic training environments. As part of the CATS requirements to enhance training, Top Aces has begun modifying both the Alphas and Lear jets at its facility in Bagotville, Que., updating avionics suites, electro-optical and infrared capability, and night vision systems. It is also configuring some Learjets into special mission aircraft. Consequently, Bouchard said the “workhorse” Alpha Jet would remain the prime adversary fighter for the foreseeable future, and he suspects that could involve more enemy role playing with new pilots as the Air Force seeks to introduce more advanced skills earlier in the training curriculum. “I think that is what is likely to occur,” he said. “As that gets pushed down, it creates an opportunity for CATS and future aircrew training to take on more of the mandate that was inside the CF-188 training pipeline for years, including at 419 [Tactical Fighter Training Squadron].” Top Aces is not one of the qualified bidders for the Future Aircrew Training program (FAcT), but he believes the company has some insight to support any future primate contractor. “We think we offer a very deep understanding of how the Air Force trains, especially the fighter force,” he said. “So I think we have a role in providing expertise and the flying support as it evolves.” The high standards set by the CATS program have been crucial to international opportunities. Top Aces secured a similar training support contract with the German Armed Forces in 2014 and, more recently, a two-year trial with the Australian Defence Force. And it will be a bidder on several large U.S. Air Force and Navy aggressor air programs, as well as a partnership with Leonardo and Inzpire on the U.K.'s Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) program. “Canada did it right,” explained Bouchard. “They thought through how they were going to regulate and oversee this, because it is a commercial service. Normally, it would be regulated by Transport Canada as an air regulator. But this is providing a very specialized military mission, so they formulated a MOU [memorandum of understanding] in the mid-2000s and updated it for the CATS program, and it really represents the highest standard that this type of business is regulated to in the world, and that is a calling card for us. It was a differentiator in Germany and Australia.” He said the same market forces that drove Canada to outsource aggressor air over a decade ago are still in play and forcing many NATO allies to consider contracting red air training, opening markets in Europe and Asia. “You have this general downward pressure on operating budgets, you have fourth generation fleets that have had to operate longer and harder than was expected, you have the impact of fifth-gen, which is significant in terms of how air forces train and how robust the training has to be, and then there is an evolving and capable threat,” he observed. “There are less than a handful of companies in the world that are qualified to do this. We are by all metrics the world leader in terms of hours flown, programs we operate, geographic footprint, safety record. We are really proud of that. And it's made in Canada. The CATS contract is a foundation we can build off of ... I think we're in a great position and I'm really excited for our future.”

  • Royal Military College staff, students won't know until mid-September if personal info compromised in cyber attack

    September 4, 2020 | Local, C4ISR, Security

    Royal Military College staff, students won't know until mid-September if personal info compromised in cyber attack

    David Pugliese Students and staff at the Royal Military College won't know until mid-September whether their personal information has been compromised, more than two months after a cyber attack forced the shutdown of the organization's computers. An extensive review of information contained on the college's computer-based academic network is underway, according to the Department of National Defence. That network is used for general administration, student communications and research. “Initial indications are the extent of the compromise appears limited primarily to non-classified administrative information and correspondence,” DND spokeswoman Christina Kasper said in an email. “When the review is complete, a general statement based on findings will be shared with all network users regarding the extent of the compromise.” The cyber attack took place July 3. “If, during the course of the assessment, it is determined any personally identifiable information was compromised, individual network users who were found to be at risk will be immediately and directly contacted by the chain of command,” Kasper added. She noted that the office of the Privacy Commissioner was notified about the incident at the college in Kingston, Ont. RMC professors have been told not to access or retrieve their files on college computers, even with a USB stick. Staff and students have also been trying since July 3 to find out if their personal data has been compromised. But an email summary of an Aug. 25 town hall that took place to discuss the computer attack acknowledged very little information is being provided by the college. “Very few specific concerns were addressed in the town hall other than the presentation of the computer network issues that transpired and the way ahead for re-implementation of the RMC network,” the email to staff noted. “Personal data loss was mentioned as a possibility that had been brought up in the media. There is currently an ongoing investigation with the goal to determine define what may have transpired and to inform any that may be affected. No other details were provided.” Global News reported Aug. 18 that what appears to be data from the Royal Military College was leaked on the dark web. Many of the files appear to include student progress reports, acceptance letters, as well as a myriad of financial documents like tax receipts and budgets for various departments, Global News noted. DND has not confirmed whether the information on the dark web came from the college's computers. The college's academic computer system is separate from the operational computers used by DND and the Canadian Forces and corporate networks were not affected by the attack. “All early indications suggest this incident resulted from a mass phishing campaign,” said DND spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande. “This incident has not affected any classified systems or classified research at the Royal Military College.” The RCMP's National Cyber Crimes unit is investigating. Lamirande said the Royal Military College expects its fall academic term to begin as scheduled on Sept. 8.

  • CAE to implement temporary layoffs, will begin producing ventilators

    April 6, 2020 | Local, Aerospace

    CAE to implement temporary layoffs, will begin producing ventilators

    CAE announced that it has taken a series of flexible measures to protect its financial position in response to the COVID-19 crisis and mitigate the impact on its employees. The measures include temporarily suspending its common share dividend and share repurchase plan, as well as temporarily laying off 2,600 of its 10,500 employees and placing another 900 employees on a reduced work week. CAE also announced that, in an effort to help save lives, it is developing an easy-to-manufacture ventilator which will provide life support to patients in intensive care. “CAE continues to support its customers as the training services we provide are considered essential around the world. Our civil aviation operations are most affected by the unprecedented disruption of the global air transportation system. At the same time, our defence and security operations are less impacted because CAE provides mission critical services worldwide,” said Marc Parent, CAE's president and CEO. “We entered this crisis from a position of strength with a leading market position, a balanced business with recurring revenue streams, and a solid financial position. Taking decisive yet flexible action will help to protect our people and operations over the short-term and gives us the necessary agility to resume long-term growth when global air travel returns. Our employees have always been at the core of CAE's success, we regret the hardship these temporary measures will cause those affected, especially during these difficult times, and we are grateful to all our employees for their contribution and dedication.” To mitigate the number of temporary layoffs, CAE significantly reduced capital expenditures and R&D investments. The company also announced cost-containment measures, including salary freezes and salary reductions for staff not affected by reduced work weeks (50 per cent for the CEO and executive team, 30 per cent for vice-presidents, 20 per cent for directors and managers, and 10 per cent for group leaders and employees). CAE is working to access government emergency relief measures and wage subsidy programs in its main operating jurisdictions and will assess their impact on its mitigation plans. As details of government assistance programs around the world are finalized, CAE will do everything it can to recall as many employees as possible. Dividend and share repurchase plan (NCIB) suspended CAE's board of directors has approved the suspension of dividend payments to common shareholders until further notice and will review this position on a quarterly basis. Core to its capital allocation priorities, CAE remains committed to paying dividends over the long-term that are commensurate with the long-term growth of its business and will seek to resume dividend payments as soon as it is appropriate. CAE's board of directors has also approved the temporary suspension of all share repurchases under its normal course issuer bid program. CAE provides essential services critical to maintaining customers' operations In civil aviation, training is highly regulated, and for pilots to remain active and to continue to hold their certifications, they must train regularly — usually every six to nine months. While training activities related to new pilot training have decreased substantially, many airlines and business jet operators have continued to conduct recurrent training to maintain the certification of their existing pilots. Two-thirds of CAE's more than 50 civil training centres worldwide continue to be operational, however training utilization is lower than usual as a result of restrictions from border closures and lockdowns that have forced temporary closures and disruptions to operations. In defence and security, as underscored by governments worldwide, CAE's work is considered essential, and its employees are deployed worldwide to actively support training and readiness requirements. Over 90 per cent of CAE's operational sites are still delivering services to support defence forces who must always be prepared and ready in the interest of national security. Playing a role in saving lives in the fight against COVID-19 To help in the fight against COVID-19, CAE Healthcare engineers and scientists have designed in 11 days a simple, maintainable, easy-to-manufacture ventilator prototype to provide life support to patients in intensive care. CAE is currently sourcing components in order to begin production of this ventilator as soon as it is approved by Health Canada. “CAE has employees around the world, and we are all proud of the impact we can have by putting our expertise to work to create a ventilator that can help save lives in the fight against COVID-19,” said Parent. “Once this prototype is approved by public health authorities, we are looking at manufacturing thousands of units in our Montreal plant and in other sites over the next few months.” CAE is also providing complimentary training seminars on how to prepare healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19. The CAE team is launching simulation-based training solutions, both web and hardware based, to train personnel in the safe practice of ventilation and intubation, which is key to saving lives. This is even more critical right now when ventilation and intubation is being done by healthcare professionals who are not trained for these complex procedures.

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