Navy says no to buying American U.S. restrictions on technology can lead to delays
The Ottawa Citizen
Jan 25 2010
By David Pugliese
Faced with delays and restrictions about what it can and cannot do with U.S. technology, Canada’s navy has opted to modernize its frigates using as much non-American equipment as possible for key systems on the ships.
The Defence Department had stipulated that the command-and-control systems on the multibillion-dollar frigate upgrade be free of U.S. regulations, say officials with Lockheed Martin Canada in Ottawa, the company handling the contract.
In the past, the strict enforcement by the U.S. government of technology restrictions under International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) has delayed the delivery of military equipment to Canada. In addition, in 2006 U.S. government officials tried unsuccessfully to limit the type of Canadians who could work on Canadian defence programs, specifically requesting that those who were born in certain countries or who had dual citizenship with particular countries not be allowed access to American technology.
Such restrictions violate Canadian law.
As a result, key radars, sensors and software to be installed on the Halifax-class frigates are coming from Canada, Sweden, Israel, Germany and the Netherlands.
“It was a desire (by the customer),” Don McClure, Lockheed Martin Canada’s vice- president of business development, said of the decision to use technology that wasn’t controlled by ITAR. “The primary thing is during the life of a warship there is the need to modify certain tactics or add certain sensors and the navy didn’t want to be restricted to having to ask permission (from the U.S.) for that.”
McClure said the command-and-control system the firm is developing in conjunction with Saab Electronics Systems of Sweden will be free of any U.S. export controls.
That will also allow the Ottawa company to market the system to other navies without having to seek U.S. permission.
Some of the weapons on the Canadian frigates use U.S.-technology and there are other American-made components that aren’t covered by ITAR on the vessels.
McClure said the frigate modernization is on track, with the first ship expected to be worked on starting in the fall. The Defence Department is spending a total of $3.1 billion on the program, which not only includes the work being done by Lockheed Martin Canada and its partners, but mid-life improvements to mechanical systems on the vessels to be done by shipyards on the east and west coasts.
The modernization of all 12 frigates will be finished by 2017.
Defence Department spokeswoman Jocelyn Sweet sent an
e-mail noting that the department did not specify that the materials and work associated with the mid-life maintenance of the frigates be free from U.S. ITARS.
But she added, “DND did require that any proposals related to the integrated combat system address how the contractor would mitigate any risk to the delivery schedule if they included sourcing of material or services from the U.S. that would invoke ITAR restrictions.”
Ottawa-based Thales Canada Defence and Security, which is also working on the frigate modernization, has noticed a spike in the desire for ITAR-free equipment at the Defence Department and from military forces around the world, said company official Conrad Bellehumeur. “Telling them something is ITAR-free produces a great interest” at DND, he added.
McClure noted that European companies are starting to gain an advantage in some marketplaces because of the U.S. ITAR restrictions.
ITARs have been partly blamed for the delays in the delivery of the Canadian Forces new maritime helicopter, the Cyclone, which is years behind schedule.
The U.S. enforces the ITARs as a way to prevent sensitive technology from falling into the hands of countries such as China and Iran.
But privately, some Canadian defence industry officials complain that the U.S. selectively uses ITARs to give equipment being provided by American-based companies an advantage in export situations. They say there have been cases where the U.S. State Department has used ITARs to prevent Canadian products from being sold overseas because those items have some American-technology in them, while at the same time giving approval to U.S. firms to sell the same components in the same foreign market.
Lockheed Martin officials said the frigate contract will create about 60 new jobs in Ottawa, largely in program management and manufacturing. Bellehumeur said the contract would maintain about 15 jobs in Ottawa at Thales.
For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at: