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New Halifax R&D centre for underwater warfare

General Dynamics Canada is accelerating its research and product development efforts in underwater submarine warfare capabilities with a new centre of excellence in Halifax.


May 16, 2011
by PLANT STAFF

OTTAWA: General Dynamics Canada is accelerating its research and product development efforts in underwater submarine warfare capabilities with a new centre of excellence in Halifax.

The Ottawa-based developer and manufacturer of electronic defence systems said the Underwater Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (UW ISR) Centre of Excellence will expand its development of anti-submarine warfare, mine avoidance and mine counter measures as naval fleets around the world re-establish this critical capability in the face of new threats.

“Global demand for submarines and associated ISR capabilities vital to providing effective deterrence is increasing. As an example, more submarines will be built or bought by Asian-Pacific navies over the next 20 years compared to any other region in the world,” said Bob Nugent, vice-president at AMI International, a Bremerton, Wa. naval market research and analysis firm.

He said national security and economic stability are driving investment in new ship and submarine fleets that require underwater submarine warfare capability.

The R&D facility will be located close to key Canadian military naval and air bases at General Dynamics Canada’s 46,000 square-foot Halifax facility, built in 2008.

The company said it will leverage its collaborative relationship with Defence Research and Development Canada – Atlantic, a defence research centre with expertise in anti-submarine warfare and mine and torpedo defence systems, and build on a partnership agreement with Marport C-Tech Ltd., a sonar manufacturer based in St. John’s, NL. That 2009 deal involves jointly developing and marketing a suite of next-generation underwater acoustic products to support underwater military ISR missions.

Marport specializes in products for commercial fisheries, underwater defence, offshore energy and the ocean science markets. It builds instruments and sensor systems that attach to fishing nets for monitoring and measuring hydrodynamic performance, and systems for harbour and port security, and anti-submarine warfare.

The centre’s team of hardware and software engineers will focus on further developing the company’s MATADOR Torpedo Detection System and the TrailBlazer Mine and Obstacle Avoidance Sonar, a joint effort with Marport.

The MATADOR acoustic processing system, used with towed array sensors, includes sonar detection displays that provide a single-view summary of all the collected acoustic data, and tools that rapidly detect torpedo signatures, accurately identify torpedo bearings, and manage torpedo alerts and alarms.

The high frequency, high-resolution TrailBlazer sonar system is designed for patrol vessels, corvettes, frigates and destroyers to avoid mines and obstacles.

Marport announced May 12 that it was awarded a contract to manufacture the TrailBlazer, but financial details were not disclosed. The company said its plants in Ottawa and Cornwall, Ont. will carry out the work.

“Maritime mines have caused major damage to naval forces, slowed or stopped commercial shipping and forced the alteration of strategic and tactical plans,” said Karl Kenny, Marport’s president and CEO.

Of the 18 US Navy ships seriously damaged in operations since the Korean War, Marport noted mines were responsible for 14 of the incidents. Between 1988 and 1991, three warships hit mines. Aggregate damage to the vessels exceeded $120 million, while the cost for the three maritime mines was approximately $13,000.

The company said “foreign adversaries” have learned from such asymmetrical success and as a result the current maritime mine threat is rapidly growing in scope and technological sophistication. As a result, modern mine countermeasures systems are now being developed to enhance the capabilities of allied forces. It cites some analysts’ estimates of the market’s worth to be more than $400 million per year.