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INDUSTRY PROFILE – General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada

INDUSTRY PROFILE – General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada

 BY JAMES CARELESS

 

MISSION-READY

Land Platforms

 

Recent global events have created a uniquely complex geopolitical environment for Canada and its allies.

Faced with these evolving threats, western governments are being compelled to rethink alliances, trade, industrial capacity, and foreign and defence policies. Global corporations have also begun to re-evaluate how they do business, and how quickly they can respond to the needs of their national customers.

These changing times have created a need for strengthened collaboration between government policy makers and industry leaders, with an urgency that has not been seen since the Second World War. Governments are recognizing that there are advantages to working with defence industry innovators if the West’s defence capabilities are to keep up with technological advancements and new global threats, and defence leadership recognizes the rapidly shifting landscape.

Canada’s defence policy, ‘Strong, Secure, Engaged’, recognizes the vital role that the defence industry plays in protecting Canada’s national security. “The Canadian defence industry is critical to the ability of the Canadian Armed Forces to deliver on the defence mandate,” it said. “Industry provides the military with broad defence capabilities including satellites, a range of aerospace technologies, naval shipbuilding, and various army vehicles. In addition to support services, these contributions from industry directly enable the military to succeed in everything they do.”

There is also a recognition that Canada’s defence posture must adapt to changing times. The general public, legislators, and leaders of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) understand the need to evolve public policy and capability requirements.

The good news: Through a forward-looking partnership between government and industry, plus ongoing strategic investments in Canada’s defence industrial base, there is an opportunity to reinforce relationships, to support industrial growth and prosperity, achieve long-term Canadian policy goals, and enhance the bi-lateral strategic security partnership with the United States.

General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada (GDLS-Canada) can assist with this mission. The company comprises approximately 15% of the defence industry in Canada and is a strategic defence asset for this country. It plays a central role in the delivery and sustainment of capabilities to the Canadian military.

 

A PILLAR IN CANADA’S DEFENCE INDUSTRY

General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada is a defence industry provider of land and amphibious platform solutions around the world. It is based in London, Ontario, in the heart of Southwestern Ontario’s manufacturing sector.

General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada’s Canadian operation employs approximately 1,750 people who design, manufacture, and support wheeled armoured vehicles for military customers. The company’s personnel are specialists in machining, materials, electronics, software development, prototyping, logistics support, and systems integration.

Known for its commitment to cutting-edge innovation, it is developing next generation capabilities across its portfolio and integrating new technologies to devise solutions for future mission needs worldwide.

With more than 45 years of experience in innovation, manufacturing, and export excellence, General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada has strategically grown to become a key element of Canada’s defence industry and has the capacity and experience to deliver solutions today to help address capability gaps, assist in defining critical performance requirements, and provide best-in-class solutions from the company’s extensive global defence supply chain.

 

SUPPORTING INDIGENOUS BUSINESS

General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada already shares many of the Government of Canada’s priorities for the updating and improvement of this nation’s defence capabilities. These priorities include modernizing the CAF’s technology base and enduring its readiness for deployment at home and abroad.

Through product innovation investments, General Dynamics is positioned to support government initiatives such as meeting net-zero manufacturing objectives, and the process of Indigenous economic reconciliation.

Indigenous economic reconciliation is a prime example of how industries can help move a worthy government policy forward. In this instance, General Dynamics joined the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) in August 2018 and continues to work in partnership with Indigenous businesses throughout the company’s value chain.

Results matter: In May 2023, the CCAB announced at CANSEC 2023 the launch of the Indigenous Business Defence Sector Accelerator program for Indigenous businesses. It has been developed to create opportunities for Indigenous businesses in Canada to engage with defence suppliers.

The new initiative, of which General Dynamics is the inaugural sponsor, pairs those Indigenous businesses inducted into the program with General Dynamics mentors to learn about regulatory requirements, acquire knowledge and skills to work within the industry and leverage opportunities within their sponsors’ global supply chain. The intent is to ensure an active and engaged Indigenous business is inducted into the General Dynamics global supply chain.

“Working with CCAB on this important initiative can help bolster job creation and thereby Indigenous economies, contributing to economic reconciliation across Canada,” explained Jason Alejandro Monahan, General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada’s Vice President and General Manager.

This is just one example of our defence industry and government working together for the common good of Canada. This begs the question: What more can be done to strengthen the government industry relationship and improve the partnerships so that we are advancing Canada together? Here are some answers.

 

R&D

When the defence industry and the Canadian government better collaborate in research and development, priorities, and objectives between the two better align. This creates the ability for industry to respond to rapidly changing DND requirements and results in a speedier procurement process. The time needed to identify and analyze options is thus compressed, due to the iterative approach. This results in better procurement options for the government, and faster, more timely delivery by industry.

The benefits of such partnerships are demonstrated through Innovation Science and Economic Development’s (ISED) defence related Key Industrial Capabilities (KICs). In 2018 ISED announced 16 KICs where Canada is globally competitive, where domestic capacity is essential to national security, and where defence procurements can better drive innovation, exports, and the growth of firms.

“For General Dynamics continually assessing new technologies and investing in research and development not only helps us maintain a competitive edge, but more importantly, it allows us to focus on providing the CAF with leading edge capabilities,” Monahan told CDR.

General Dynamics’ strategic investments in advanced materials, armour, artificial intelligence, cyber resilience, remotely piloted systems and autonomous technologies, defence systems integration, ground vehicle solutions, in-service support, and training and simulation – have aligned with government priority industries, and through procurement, Canada can invest in technologies and contracts that enhance our industrial base and North American supply chains.

 

STRATEGIC INDUSTRY PARTNER

The current mandate for the Department of National Defence contains many priorities, including the objective of ensuring that the CAF is a 21st century military with the capabilities, equipment and culture to implement Canada’s defence policy, ‘Strong, Secure, Engaged’, and anticipate and respond to the full range of current and emerging threats. This too is a priority for General Dynamics. Engineers are constantly evolving the product line. Enormous time, effort and financial resources are dedicated to advancing research and developing initiatives. Fulfilling Canada’s capability requirements and international partnership obligations, including those that might enable response and aid to current and future conflicts, can be accomplished with an army that is fully equipped.

Again, the key to a government ensuring this capability for its defence forces is having a strategic industry partner who has immediate capacity and who can provide continuous sustainment.

 

INNOVATION IS KEY

As a strategic partner in keeping the Canadian Army mission-ready, General Dynamics must stay ahead of the curve by investing in research & development, innovation and technology.

Some of this work is already being done through government programs that, through co-investment between industry and government, allows industry to create innovative projects that will help grow Canada’s economy.

ISED’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) is one such program. Strategic Innovation Fund programs – through which General Dynamics has received funding – “supports large-scale, transformative, and collaborative projects that help position Canada to prosper in the global knowledge-based economy. SIF projects promote the long-term competitiveness of Canadian industries, clean growth, and the advancement of Canada’s strategic technological advantage.”

Working through programs like ISED allows General Dynamics to expand on the innovative work already being done. Examples of such innovation include Robotics Systems for LAVs (Light Armoured Vehicles) that — among their many benefits — assist operations in GPS-denied environments; and detection architecture that incorporates multiple layers of battlefield information, into an artificial intelligence support tool.

“Research and development projects are being undertaken to develop a hybrid electric LAV platform,” Monahan said. “We’re investing in robotics and autonomy because we know this is what Canada and our allies need. The CAF has a digitization strategy for the CAF to become digitally transformed by 2030, and we are responding to that as we are with other international customers. These are Initiatives that give the CAF the best in technology and enhance Canada’s reputation as a global center of innovation and contribute to an innovative Defence ecosystem at home.”

Being mission-ready also means continually sustaining capability for existing military systems.

Continuous sustainment of fleet capability, however, could go beyond maintaining existing capability – as is the case today – to ensuring that the CAF is continuously equipped with the latest technology to ensure future mission success.

Through government investment in technology and procurement, the integration of incremental upgrades or “threat-pacing capability updates” for LAVs already in the field would provide the CAF with a higher level of digitally enabled platforms capable of increased lethality, mobility, and protection.

It offers a planned approach to ‘spiraling in’ evolving vehicle and manufacturing technologies with a vision for a next-generation, dominant wheeled vehicle platform, and ensures the LAV 6.0’s ability to respond to current and emerging threats through continuous modernization initiatives.

This approach not only sustains the fleets current capabilities but has the potential to evolve the CAF’s existing fleet of LAV 6.0s and sustain ongoing capability and relevance over its life cycle. In addition, it creates a predictable and stable defence industrial base by sustaining engineering and other well-paying jobs and maintaining a strong supply chain necessary for capability sustainment as technology rapidly evolves in a complex multi-domain threat environment.

“The integration of incremental upgrades would give Canada the ongoing ability to respond to evolving threat requirements ensuring that the platform is well-supported,” Monahan told CDR. “General Dynamics continues to develop and invest in capabilities that support our LAV customers globally. These capabilities are available to Canada for retrofit or as additional LAV 6.0 variants with moderate development and testing effort.”

 

THE POWER OF PARTNERSHIP

The technological progress made by General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada over the years and the support this company provides to the CAF and Canada on an ongoing basis demonstrates a fundamental truth: When the government and industry work together, both parties gain valuable benefits.

The affects that global events are having on the geopolitical environment can be an opportunity for Canada and its close allies to do things differently and work together even more effectively with industry to move Canada forward.

 

James Careless is CDR’s Ottawa Bureau Chief

 

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