Lockheed Martin Canada leads group bid for new Canadian warships

Ottawa startups and suppliers would stand to benefit if consortium is successful in landing contract
Type 26 Global Combat Ship

After submitting its bid for the next generation of Canadian warships, Lockheed Martin Canada says its coalition is the best choice for Canada, and, by extension, the company’s local suppliers and partners in Ottawa.

The firm has partnered with a group of defence suppliers under the banner “Canada’s Combat Ship Team,” hoping the Canadian angle will give them the edge in the competition to provide the Canadian Surface Combatants.

Included in the bid are L3 Technologies, CAE, Ultra Electronics, MDA Corp. and BAE Systems. The latter is a British defense firm with a sizeable Canadian presence, and the designer behind the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, the team’s warship of choice.

Lockheed Martin Canada’s role on the team is as provider of the combat systems integrator, a platform developed in Ottawa that loosely means the “brain of the ship.”

The firm’s flagship product is its CMS 330. It has integrated, or is in the process of integrating, the platform into a variety of projects including Canada’s Halifax class modernization and the Arctic-Offshore Patrol Ships, as well as in contracts with the New Zealand and Chilean navies.

Rosemary Chapdelaine, vice-president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Canada Rotary and Mission Systems, says constructing the bid and assembling partners was about maximizing Canadian input on the final product.

“Our team is really about the Canadian content, the Canadian pedigree, focusing on the Canadian doctrine,” she tells OBJ.

Apart from the feel-good sentiments and economic benefits associated with a made-in-Canada proposal, Ms. Chapdelaine says there are security benefits to choose Canadian suppliers as well. Whichever bid is successful for Canada’s next generation of warships, much of the final designs and construction process will be matters of national security.

In other words, she says, for Canadian eyes only.

Why Type 26?

Landing on the Type 26 was part strategy and part happenstance.

While BAE’s Type 26 is not a Canadian-designed ship, it’s designed to operate with several Canadian-built systems, says Lockheed Martin Canada program director Gary Fudge. That gives the British-designed ship an edge in a Canadian bid.

But Lockheed Martin Canada began working with BAE well before the two companies thought they’d be part of a single bid.

The Government of Canada’s original iteration of the CSC competition was in two separate streams: One bidding process for the combat systems integrator, and another for the warships designer.

While Lockheed Martin Canada planned to bid in both categories, the firm had to hedge bets on working with another supplier in case it wasn’t selected for its warship design. Its surveys of external warships brought it to BAE Systems, and the firm proposed working together to establish best practices for integrating with another firm should they win one competition but lose the other.

That changed last year when the federal government announced a change in the competition: Public Services and Procurement would now be looking for a single bid combining the combat systems integrator with the warship design.

Lockheed Martin Canada was not shortlisted as a prequalified bidder in terms of warship design, forcing the firm to adapt its bid plans.

“That was a really tough time for us,” Ms. Chapdelaine says.

The firm undertook another review of warships compatible with Lockheed Martin’s engineering practices and the CMS 330. Once again, Mr. Fudge says, “BAE came out on top.”

He says the Type 26 has a variety of specifications that make it ideal for Canada’s requirements. BAE’s design system is digital-first, making it adaptable to construction in the Irving Shipbuilding yards where the successful bid’s designs will be brought to life.

The ship is equipped for a variety of missions and disaster responses, flexible on space to accommodate extra crew, resources and rations. Acoustically, the ship is designed to be as quiet as possible as to avoid detection by potentially-hostile submarines. It’s suitable for weather conditions both in the far north and tropical environments near the equator.

“The BAE ship is designed from the ground up with all of that in mind,” Mr. Fudge says.

Ottawa startups and suppliers stand to benefit

Should Canada’s Combat Ship Team be successful in its bid, which it should know sometime in 2018, Ms. Chapdelaine says Canada and the National Capital Region stands to benefit.

According to a press release, the combined partners employ more than 9,000 Canadians and draw on a supply chain employing roughly 4,000 more.

Ms. Chapdelaine says a successful bid would warrant a “hiring initiative” and would tap the firm’s extensive network of suppliers and SME partners, many of which are in the Ottawa area. Lockheed Martin Canada can’t disclose specific suppliers at this moment, as the bid process remains open for revisions in the coming weeks.

However, the firm can point to R&D work done at its local IMPACT Centre as an example of its wider local presence. The centre works with local startups and partners with Algonquin College and the city’s two universities to develop new technologies primarily in the naval sector.

Ms. Chapdelaine adds that Lockheed Martin Canada has been gearing up for the CSC bid for five years at this point. The firm’s Palladium Drive location features a large production floor, only partially in use today. Ms. Chapdelaine says winning the bid would quickly fill the unused space in the Kanata facility.

Start of ship construction is currently scheduled for 2020.