May 15, 2009

In the summer of 2005, the Departments of National Defence (DND) and Public Works and Government Services (PWGSC) released three long term contracts for the In-Service Support (ISS) of the CP140 and the CC130 fleet. These contracts were based on the Optimized Weapon System Management (OWSM) model which featured multiple service lines for engineering, ILS, maintenance and material support as well as program management, long term stable funding, performance based incentives and the requirement to reduce overall cost of ownership. In the case of the CC130, a single contract for the Prime Air Vehicle (PAV) was released. The CP140 OWSM delivered both a PAV contract and an Avionics (AVS) ­contract. In each case the contract was awarded to a Canadian company or Canadian-led joint venture, thus leveraging an established and demonstrated Canadian industrial capability. As the fourth anniversary of these awards approach, and as other variations on the ISS model are invoked, it is useful to assess the OWSM model.

These fleets, and their associated projects, demand an enormous amount of infrastructure, fiscal resources and human intellectual and physical capital in order to maintain. This is occurring at a time when DND and PWGSC are under extreme pressure to meet the demands of changing demographics and procuring new air, land and sea fleets while conducting a very high tempo of operations at the extreme reaches of the supply chain. While the planned modernization of the CC 130 avionics has been completed and CP 140 Avionics is being addressed under a multi phase ­program, a significant issue remains. The most severe aspects of avionics equipment obsolescence and ­operationally capability in these 29+ year old fleets, limited modernization cannot realistically remove all obsolescence. The ISS phase of a weapon system’s life is ­constantly marked by the competing ­ challenges of operational relevance, increasing cost of ownership and operational availability.
OWSM has permitted DND to re-posture very limited, high value engineering, program management, life cycle management and supply chain resources to an ever-increasing list of new programs and apply more resources closer to or immediately at front line domestic and deployed operations. In the case of the CP 140 AVS OWSS this has been achieved by applying mature processes and an extensive knowledge base in delivering all of the functions (repairs, system engineering, logistics planning, training, documentation, obsolescence manage­ment, technical investigations, spare parts and capability enhance­ment) required to undertake in-service support, and doing so in an integrated fashion. This gives DND the ability to deploy scarce resources elsewhere while also delivering improved system availability, extended system operating life, rapid introduction of upgrades at reduced risk, and lower fleet support costs. For example, improving aircraft availability of the CP 140 fleet by 5% delivers the same capability as buying an additional aircraft.

The performance based incentives in the OWSM model have been highly effective in producing a keen focus within industry on the aspects of fleet management that DND considers important. In at least one case, the cost of ownership, as compared to DND provided baselines, has been reduced beyond the goals set out in the contract.

Further reductions are anticipated as supply chain functions are more fully transferred to industry. In addition to reduced cost, system health status and monitoring has benefited from updates that were beyond the capacity of DND to provide. Similarly, engineering and life cycle management support have realized improved responsiveness. Furthermore DND and PWGSC are no longer burdened with the management of hundreds of suppliers and sub-contractors as the OWSM Primes have taken on this role.

As new models for In-Service Support come on the Canadian aerospace and defence scene to be evaluated, it bears consideration that the political, capital, intellectual and human investments which led DND and industry to adopt OWSM ISS solutions serving DND today were the rights ones for a nation which operates small highly capable operational fleets at extremely demanding rates in extremely demanding theatres.
Colonel (ret) Gerry Morey, a former Wing Commander, 14 Wing Greenwood, enjoyed over 35 years of service in the Canadian Forces. He is currently the Director of Systems Support at L-3 Electronic Systems.
A subsidiary of L-3 Communications, L-3 Electronic Systems (L-3 ES) has been providing service to Canada’s military for over 40 years. The company employs over 500 people at facilities in Toronto, Ontario and Enfield, Nova Scotia. Learn more about L-3 ES by visiting the company’s web site.
© 2009 FrontLine Defence