OTTAWA — The Canadian Army hopes to have in place by the end of this year an initial contract for a new vehicle-mounted surveillance system that can feed its data into command-and-control networks.
The Army uses the Coyote reconnaissance vehicle, but its systems cannot transmit information to headquarters. The Coyote was delivered in 1997, and its main drawback is that the data it collects is stored on 8mm cassettes, which are then hand-delivered to senior officers.
That will change with a new project that not only improves the range and capability of the surveillance systems but also allows the data to be transmitted into battlefield networks, Canadian Army commander Lt. Gen. Peter Devlin said.
The project will replace the Coyote with the Light Armoured Vehicle-Reconnaissance: Surveillance Systems Upgrade Project, known as LRSS UP, Devlin said.
“The plan is to put that on an upgraded LAV-3 vehicle,” he said.
The Canadian government has not released details on what the project will cost. But industry representatives estimate the LRRS UP will be worth about 250 million Canadian dollars ($240 million).
Sixty-six surveillance systems will be purchased and integrated into the upgraded LAV-3s by General Dynamics Land Systems — Canada of London, Ontario. General Dynamics is upgrading the LAV-3s for the Army as part of a 1 billion Canadian dollar project. Its London plant also originally built the Coyote vehicles.
When it was delivered in 1997, the Coyote was considered state-of-the-art and soon became the backbone of the Canadian Army’s battlefield surveillance capabilities.
But Army Maj. Frank Lozanski of the office of the Director of Land Requirements told industry representatives during a presentation in May that the Coyote is facing obsolescence. Aside from its use of 8mm cassettes to transfer surveillance data to higher headquarters, he noted the Coyote has no connectivity to the Army’s network that displays intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance information.
The vehicle’s surveillance sensors also cannot be operated if the Coyote is moving, Lozanski pointed out. Low to medium winds can cause the vehicle’s surveillance mast, erected while stationary, to sway, and the imagery being collected can become unstable.
The surveillance system takes 20 to 40 minutes to set up and tear down — too much time in a combat situation, Army officers said.
In addition, the Coyote chassis does not provide sufficient protection against improvised bombs, so the vehicles have played a limited role during the war in Afghanistan, Lozanski noted in his presentation. Troops are required to dismount from the vehicle to set up the surveillance system, putting them at risk.
LRSS UP will acquire a system that produces digital information that can be fed into Canadian Forces networks. The detection range and identification capabilities of surveillance systems will be improved. The time to set up the system will be decreased, and the new vehicles will be able to transmit data while on the move.
The operator control station will be designed so it can accept the future integration of data from unmanned aircraft and ground systems, industry representatives have been told.
According to the LRSS UP letter of interest provided to industry, the surveillance suite will consist of day and night surveillance systems, a near-infrared illuminator, a GPS receiver and other range detection equipment.
“The pace and nature of modern military operations requires rapid access to relevant information and [communication of] reports and data electronically to superior Headquarters,” the April 16 letter informed industry officials. “This information needs to be integrated into an automated system for collection, analysis and dissemination.”
The system will be required to connect and operate with existing Canadian Forces software, the letter noted.
Army officers say the project is approved and funded. The government intends to award a definition-phase contract to General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada by the end of the year.
That definition phase will be for design and integration work on the armored vehicles. A prime subcontractor who will provide the surveillance system will be selected also to provide the sensor suite, mast and operator control station.
Army Col. Michael Nixon, director of land requirements, has said he expects initial operating capability of the LRSS UP by 2015. Full operating capability will be in 2017.
Devlin also said the Army has long-range plans to acquire a medium-range radar that would be able to provide warning and detection of rocket launches and incoming mortar rounds, as well as track aircraft.
The Army wants a radar system capable of feeding its targeting information into command-and-control networks, providing yet another picture of what is happening on the battlefield.
“That, I believe, is very important for us to provide force protection,” Devlin said.
He did not provide specific dates on when the Army wants to procure the medium-range radar.