Mar 15, 2014

The Canadian Armed Forces has always prided itself in being able to “punch above its weight” but the recently-concluded combat mission in Afghanistan underscored the need for appropriate gloves, rapid reflexes and, arguably the most important, keen vision, if the Army is to carry on the fight. Hence, the competition to supply General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) with a LAV Reconnaissance: Surveillance System Upgrade (LRSS UP) to be incorporated into the extensive upgrade to the Army’s fleet of more than 600 Light Armoured Vehicles. GDLS was sole-sourced by the government to carry out the upgrade to the 17-ton 8x8 LAV IIIs, a mid-1990s Canadian development of the Swiss MOWAG Piranha IIIH.

The LRSS is expected to comprise an array of stabilized multi-spectrum sensor suites as well as vehicle and ground mounts, operator control stations and battery power supplies. They are all part of a package that will enhance the ­abilities of LAV III crews and their field commanders to collect, process and ­disseminate real-time battlefield information, enabling faster and more direct response to threats.

Teams led by the following Primes – DRS, General Dynamics Canada, Rheinmetal Canada, and Raytheon Canada – are competing for the contract. Each has supplied a demo system to GDLS for evaluation, and are now being evaluated on technical merit and cost. A contract could be awarded later this year since all bid ­components have been ­submitted, however, further funding approval is required by Treasury Board.

The first upgraded LAV III was delivered by London-based GDLS on time in January 2013, setting the stage for a comprehensive test and evaluation program before going ahead with the LRSS UP. GDLS has been tasked by the Army to conduct the competition on their behalf (with DND oversight) because, as one industry source told FrontLine, neither Public Works nor DND have “the resources or bandwidth” to manage the competition in-house, adding that “this actually makes it faster.” Whichever partnership wins the contract, the LRSS will greatly enhance the LAV IIIs’ capabilities in combat missions ranging from open terrain to urban environments.

The overall LAV upgrade includes not only the surveillance systems but also upgraded armour, weapon systems, powertrain, suspension, running gear and brakes. “The LAV III UP project is capitalizing on existing and evolving technology to … extend its operational life to 2035,” Public Works & Government Services Canada said.

The need for extensive upgrading was underscored by the fact that the Army saw dozens of its older LAV IIIs heavily damaged or destroyed in Afghanistan, many by sophisticated and increasingly-powerful improvised explosive devices. All were being rotated out for refit and repair every 12 months.

In October 2011, Public Works announced an initial $1 billion implementation phase contract which would start with the weapons and personnel protection elements. That was for 550 of the vehicles. A $151-million follow-on contract for the remaining 66 LAVs was announced 13 months later.

© FrontLine Magazines 2014