Archive for March, 2010


March 11, 2010

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

Canada’s new Chinooks will be outfitted with a new state-of-art laser-based counter-missile defense system, military officers have told Defence Watch.

The first of the 15 Chinook F models ordered by Canada are scheduled to arrive in the summer of 2013.

They will have undergone some modifications that the military deemed to be worthwhile for Canadian scenarios. Those include the installation of larger fuel tanks for increased range and an upgraded electrical system that is designed to handle improved avioncis as well as a laser-based counter-missile defence system.

The Canadian Chinooks are different from those being operated by the U.S. Army because of the increased fuel capacity, defensive suite and improved electrical system, said Canadian Air Force Lt. Col. Rick McLaughlin, operational requirements manager for the medium-heavy lift helicopter project.

The Canadian Chinooks will be outfitted with an enhanced survivability package using a directed infra-red countermeasures system, he noted. The turreted system constantly watches for missile launches and “defeats the eyeball on the heat-seeker (of a missile) using a laser shot,” McLaughlin said.

Also on board will be more traditional countermeasures against missiles such as flares. The upgraded electrical system that is being installed on the Canadian Chinooks is designed to handle the extra power needs to run the laser-based countermeasures system.

McLaughlin also said Canada will have large-size fuel tanks installed in the Chinooks for increased range, to deal with the country’s large geographic size as well as a result from lessons learned from Afghanistan. He noted that many operations being flown in-theater with Chinooks involved the use of fuel bladders, outfitted in the rear cabin area, to provide added range.

McLaughlin said Canada had safety issues about using such fuel bladders as well as concerns that putting the extra fuel containers in the rear of the aircraft would cut down on the number of troops that could be carried.

“For each one that goes in there you loose upwards of a dozen seats in the back,” he explained. “The whole issue of carrying gas in the back and losing cargo capability came into the discussion.”

All aircraft are expected to be delivered by June 2014.


March 9, 2010


By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

KABUL –   The white blimp that hovers over this city has been a constant presence in Kabul’s dust and pollution-filled skies since it was sent aloft last summer.

Known as the Persistent Threat Detection System, it consists of an aerostat or “blimp” mounted with camera equipment. The system is flown on a tether at several thousand feet to enable around-the-clock surveillance of a wide area, according to International Security Assistance Force.

Through the PTDS, Afghan National Security Forces have access to high resolution imagery, including full-motion video and audio data from the greater Kabul area, ISAF officials say. That information, together with surveillance data from other security systems, allows for better and earlier threat recognition, which in turn will helps security forces’ “effective responses to threats and attacks,” or so ISAF claims.

The aerostat’s full-motion video camera can pan 360 degrees and provide nonstop, instant surveillance. “With that camera, we can go anywhere in the city to allow us to look for any threats or any intentions from the insurgency,” Col. Marilyn Jenkins, a U.S. Army intelligence officer told the Armed Forces Network Afghanistan last year.

The surveillance system is anchored at Bala Hissar, an ancient fortress on one of the hills that overlooks Kabul.

According to ISAF, such systems have a successful history of integration with security technologies to combat threats in Iraq, and dozens of PTDS have been employed effectively in eastern Afghanistan since early 2004. (ISAF is providing the technology to support the Afghan National Security Forces.)

But how effective is the system?

In the last six months Kabul has been hit by three spectacular insurgent attacks, with suicide bombers and insurgent assault teams targeting high-profile government sites as well as areas frequented by foreigners.  There is no indication that the government or ISAF had advance warning of such attacks because of the aerostat, although the system could have provided surveillance data as the attacks unfolded.

A similar system keeps watch over Kandahar but some military officers I have talked to suggest that the more open approaches to that city make the aerostat a more effective surveillance system for that environment.

Nevertheless, such aerostats/blimps appear to be making a comeback in military circles. Walter Pincus, the veteran security issues reporter for the Washington Post, has noted that the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the Army Forces Strategic Command have revived a previous attempt to come up with a self-powered, intelligence-gathering airship. The ideal model would be able to linger for more than three weeks over a target area at 20,000 feet, carrying a 2,500-pound payload of signals and imagery interceptors with a view of 173 miles, according to a special notice issued recently by the Pentagon.

The notice, Pincus points out, outlines how the engines would be able to keep a steady speed of 20 knots, but if needed possess an 80-knot “dash speed.” Though it is expected to be unmanned and operated from the ground, it may be operated with a crew.

Added Pincus in his article: “The ambitious and new five-year program for a 250-foot-long “Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle” calls for 18 months of performance testing “followed by additional tests and demonstrations conducted in Afghanistan,” according to the notice.”


March 8, 2010

First flight of Canada’s new C-130J. Photos provided by Lockheed Martin: