xwave takes flight with

One of Canada’s leading IT services companies has landed a contract that will assist in the assessment of warfare technologies for Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) CH146 Griffon helicopters.

As part of the two-year, $3.3-million contract, xwave, a subsidiary of Maritimes-based telecommunications company Aliant Inc., will network five government and industry simulation facilities in the United States and Canada using a WAN. The locations include: a Canadian Forces Base in Gagetown, N.B.; the Valcartier defence research establishment in Quebec City; BAE Systems Canada in Kanata, Ont.; xwave’s location in Stittsville, Ont.; and a U.S. Army location still to be decided, but likely to be Fort Rucker in Alabama.

“Basically, the intent is that a Griffon helicopter pilot would be able to sit in a simulated cockpit in Gagetown and interact with other systems,” outlined Don McClure, director of sales, defence and aerospace, for xwave. “(That) might include a simulation of an electronic warfare system at Valcartier, or a developmental system here at (xwave), or a cockpit layout at BAE Systems. So over the network different portions of the simulation would be in different locations.”

McClure said xwave has established virtual private network (VPN) connections over T1 lines that the DND has already leased from Bell Nexxia as part of its telephone services renewal project.

As prime contractor of the Tactical Aviation Mission Systems Simulation (TAMSS), xwave said it will be using high-performance visualization systems from Mountain View, Calif.’s SGI (Silicon Graphics Inc.). Ottawa-based The HFE Group will also provide engineering services to the project.

Mike Clarke, the director of science and technology, air, for Defence R&D Canada, said the main objective of TAMSS is to allow pilots and procurement officers to evaluate potential electronic warfare technologies to be added to the Griffon helicopter.

Although Canada’s 99 Griffons were only purchased between the years 1992 and 1997, Clarke said the DND recognizes that over the aircrafts’ lifetimes, some of the weapons technology will become outdated.

“We see DND picking (TAMSS) up as the test bed for making good, informed decision on their requirements before they actually have to go out and specify (contract requirements) and spend money,” Clarke said.

And with funds for defence not exactly flowing like a river, making shrewd decisions becomes even more imperative. Though the Griffon helicopters were purchased for about $7.5 million each, their annual support costs are already about $10.7 million per year, Clarke said. He added that that figure is expected to jump to $22 million a year by 2005-2006.

Clarke said simulation technologies have already managed to save DND’s air force a bit of money. The department had been required to identify what symbology (i.e. speed, compass heading, altitude, etc.) it wanted to see on its Griffon pilots’ night vision goggles, so it could be tendered out for contract. Rather than paying for the contract and finding bugs after the fact, Clarke said pilots tested the symbology they figured they might need via helmet-attached simulation equipment. They were then able to identify any deficiencies in their symbology and then modify their choices before they paid for the contract.

McClure said xwave feels its experience with the defence industry, a relationship that has been going on for about 20 years, provides them with expertise in developing real-time operational systems. He also said there are definite business applications to the company’s knowledge.

“We could foresee that a corporation could look into its data warehouse and do simulation or what-if scenarios based on its data,” McClure said.

xwave currently targets vertical markets such as defence and aerospace, telecommunications, and the oil and gas and public sectors. Its parent company Aliant is majority-owned by Montreal’s BCE Inc.