Mark Collins – New RCAF Chief: Innovative Thinking on Maritime Patrol, Drones

More from Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin’s September 2012 interview with Vanguard magazine, published January 7:

1) Maritime Patrol (and drones, links added):

CP-140 replacement. We’ve had a big, four-engine plane because it needs range, it needs to fly for 12-14 hours, it needs to carry people in the back, it needs to carry torpedoes and all the sensors. Does the replacement also have to be big [and will there be any budget money for such a plane?]? If you look at what is available, you’ve got the Boeing P-8 and Lockheed Martin’s C-130J adapted for maritime operations, but all of these are big airplanes that cost a lot of money. And that puts pressure on the entire air force. What if I could do business differently in 20-30 years? What if I could use a smaller, cheaper airplane to carry just a few people with some equipment in the back, and combine it with a UAV, or even a couple of UAVs, controlled by the mother ship, that would be carrying the torpedoes [! emphasis added] and the sensors. We can see this coming on our horizon. The technology is not there yet but it may be there in 20-25 years [see last link at end of post]. And if I buy a big airplane now to perpetuate the way I am doing business, I may not be able to take advantage of this. If I could extend the Auroras for another 15-20 years and maintain the capability I have, that would buy me time. I want to turn this into an opportunity to look at concepts for the future…

Heck, maybe a significant number of those smaller planes might even be civilian (and maybe they could even be privatized?). From an earlier post:

Contracting our Rotary SAR? Plus Australia’s Coastwatch

Again I don’t think it politically possible in Canada to try “privatizing”–that horrible curse word if anything goes wrong–such a function [maritime patrol generally]. We really have far too little appetite to follow others’ innovations, combined with a fixation on the need for the government to do things itself. But Canada, within those constraints, still might try something a bit different. I earlier wrote this, see end at link:

…The Air Force’s fleet of Aurora maritime patrol aircraft is being reduced from 18 to 10. Those aircraft also do considerable non-military work. To reduce such demands on them why not expand and centralize the government’s current fleet of civilian maritime patrol aircraft, mainly used for pollution detection and fisheries enforcement? As far as I can determine there are six planes, three Bombardiers owned and operated by Transport Canada [more here], and three King Airs leased by Fisheries and Oceans.

Surely a few more such aircraft would be very helpful for general maritime surveillance, including such roles as law enforcement, migrant detection, vessel identification, and sovereignty patrols in the Arctic. Transport Canada could well operate such a fleet on behalf of Fisheries and Oceans, Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Canada, CBSA/RCMP, CF as required, and others

A contract actually worth giving to Bombardier [via Field Aviation, after a competition]!

Also relevant:

Maritime Surveillance Drones: Aussies Looking Sensible

2) More on Drones (and maritime patrol):

On the JUSTAS (Joint Unmanned Surveillance and Target Acquisition System) program and the possibility of a family of UAVs or other alternatives:

JUSTAS [see below] has gone through a few chapters. The first requirement was in Afghanistan but there was recognition that once Afghanistan is over, we’d like something to help in Canada. But the MALEs (medium altitude, long endurance) we were considering at that time operated at speeds that were fine for Afghanistan but not for long distances in Canada. If I have to fly to the Arctic or out over the Atlantic at 30,000 feet and I’ve got a 100-knot wind on the nose and I’m flying 150 knots, it’s going to take a long time to reach the Arctic, do something and try to come back. A HALE can fly at 60,000 feet, faster, and with more range, but it’s very, very expensive. So what about a combination of MALEs for maritime patrol and a few HALEs for the Arctic? You can operate two fleets, but it costs a lot more money than we initially figured. And I’d like to get away from the very expensive HALEs.

The fact that we didn’t move quickly into UAVs is probably a good thing; the technology is moving toward where we may have something in between. There are a few MALEs coming with a jet engine that gives you better speed. If you have a 250-knots MALE with close to the same endurance, you’ve got a compromise. Personally, this is what I would like to have: something in between that gives me reach to the Arctic but something that I can use tactically as well. Given how fast technology is evolving, there are going to be some much better airplanes that you wish you’d waited for. So I wouldn’t want to go too far into a very expensive platform. We’re starting to see a couple of platforms. The Europeans are developing one, the Americans are developing a new generation of a follow-on to the Predator [this one?], which could have potential. So for me it is worthwhile to wait a bit and look at what is coming out…


The Canadian U(C)AV Merry-Go-Round Drones On

USN U(C)AVs: More on the Wings of Things to Come…

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute

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