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ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) aircraft modifier, operator and in service support supplier PAL Aerospace is taking to the skies later this year with a new leasing service that will provide its high-tech planes on a contract basis.

“This will be a great opportunity to fill our clients’ needs while they’re in a procurement or evaluation process,” said Michael Sangster, PAL Aerospace’s Chief Commercial Officer. “It will also be a chance to train operators and flight crew and demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of our solutions.”

Dubbed the Force Multiplier, and announced at CANSEC 2017, Canada’s global defence and security trade show held at the EY Centre in Ottawa on May 31st and June 1st, 2017.

In a nutshell, the new service will let customers lease an aircraft fully equipped with Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) technology, operated and maintained by PAL Aerospace personnel, to gather the required data when needed by the customer.

Brian Chafe, PAL Aerospace’s Chief Executive Officer, says the move to provide customers with the opportunity to add to their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities when they need it most, is a transformational move for the company.

Until CANSEC 2017, PAL Aerospace was being tight-lipped about the details of its Force Multiplier. Due to competitive reasons, the company is keeping the cost of building the aircraft, its usual sale price, the number of personnel which will accompany it, and the number of employees being used to equip it closely-guarded secrets.

“Work is underway on the development of the aircraft already,” he said. “These aircraft can take 12 to 18 months to modify and we’re well underway. It will be ready in 2017.” The Force Multiplier service itself is expected to be available next year. “We hope to see our clients excited in investing in their current and future needs,” said Sangster. “Customers will be using the aircraft in 2018.”

The twin-engine, medium-range turboprop Dash 8s, originally manufactured by de Havilland Canada and now made by Bombardier Aerospace, are one of the aircraft of choice for ISR missions. Stable, and with low operational costs, the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW100 engine powers the Dash 8 which is known for its extremely short take-off and landing capability.

The aircraft’s 300 series has a longer body than either the first or second incarnation of plane, capable of seating 50 passengers, but is shorter than the 400 series. In 1997, Bombardier added cabin noise suppression features – think “quiet” – to the aircraft and the prefix Q to its designation.

Although there is still much PAL Aerospace is keeping under wraps about its Force Multiplier service – at least until the aircraft’s unveiling – the equipment on it and its features are known.

Under the cockpit, the Force Multiplier Dash 8 will have EO/IR (electro-optical sensors in the infrared range), allowing the aircraft’s ISR systems to identify heat signatures and “see” below whether while flying during the daylight hours or at night. A world-class THALES Search Master multi-mode radar near the landing gear under the plane will allow it to detect other aircraft, boats, and cars.

The maritime search radar comes with an inverse synthetic aperture radar (ISAR) mode which can generate high-resolution, two dimensional images of what the sensors pick up using the movement of the object to create the synthetic aperture. That ISAR technology can enhance what a conventional radar would show as only a single, bright pixel moving on the screen, to an image clear enough to distinguish between various missiles or military and civilian aircraft.

In its ground moving target indicator (GMTI) mode, routinely used by the military, the Force Multiplier aircraft will also be able to distinguish targets moving on land or water from surface clutter to a distance of up to 200 nautical miles. Using the Doppler radar return of the moving targets, GMTI radar shows moving vehicles as dots overlaid on a digital map and can do this even in bad weather or complete darkness.

PAL Aerospace has had great success in the Middle East as is evidenced by its display at the Dubai Air Show

A drop hatch just ahead of the tail section of the aircraft will allow for the deployment of stores, including life rafts or smoke markers. Other sensor and communication capabilities included on the platform will include AIS, SAR Direction finding and advanced communication equipment including Satcom and Tactical Data Link.

An integrated camera system in the rear section will allow the aircraft’s users to take photographs at night of targets of interest while recording their precise location. When PAL Aerospace unveils its Force Multiplier aircraft, it will also sport a fuel system modification that extends its flight time up to 10 hours. Its satellite communications system will provide connectivity no matter how high the plane flies or where it is located, allowing users to transmit contact information, chat in real time, or relay real-time video and radar information.

The launch of the Force Multiplier comes less than a year after PAL Aerospace announced it was acquiring Nova Scotia software developer CarteNav Solutions, a company which provides situational awareness and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance solutions for maritime, land and air environments.

With its list of defence, security, and commercial clients and its flagship AIMS-ISR product, a software of choice for both governmental and commercial clients in more than 30 countries, the acquisition of CarteNav was seen as a synergistic move for PAL Aerospace when the deal was announced in August last year.

“The acquisition of CarteNav Solutions is extremely exciting,” PAL CEO, Brian Chafe, said of the deal last year. “There are many synergies between our two companies as we are each leaders in our specific segments of the ISR market. “Together, we look forward to enhancing the product and service offerings we are each able to offer,” he said. “We are pleased to welcome CarteNav to the EIC (Exchange Income Corporation) family and excited about the additional market opportunities for us both.”

Paul Evans of CarteNav says that his company

Winnipeg-based, Exchange Income Corporation, is PAL Aerospace’s parent company, having bought the Newfoundland-based aerospace company, which includes PAL Airlines, for about $244 million worth of cash and stock in 2015. So, when CarteNav Solutions joined the PAL Aerospace Group, the software company’s president, Paul Evans, welcomed the deal as something that would open doors for the then 14-year-old company.

“I am proud of what CarteNav has accomplished over the last 14 years and feel joining PAL Aerospace, along with EIC’s support, will allow us to rapidly move to the next level,” said Evans. “Our combined expertise will allow us to enhance solution offerings for our market space.

“CarteNav’s growth has resulted from our focus on innovation, responsive service, and building meaningful relationships with our customers and partners,” he said. “We are excited by this new chapter in our company’s evolution, supported by a broader team that shares these values in support of a global community of operators undertaking the most demanding of missions.”

That much-touted synergy between PAL Aerospace and CarteNav Solutions will be evident in the Force Multiplier aircraft as it will have two mission control systems, including one developed by CarteNav.

“CarteNav will have their missions system on board,” said Sangster. “It will be with us alongside a Thales provided mission system called Amascos that will both operate the sensors and Thales SearchMaster radar. Both mission systems will manage the radar and electro-optical infrared sensors to allow the operators to track incidents, boats, aircraft and vehicles.”

Although the PAL Aerospace exec was not in a position to reveal the amount of investment the company is making in the Force Multiplier aircraft and its flight and maintenance crews, Sangster did say the investment in this project demonstrates a great show of confidence by Exchange Income Corporation.

Certainly, the parent company’s roster of aerospace-related and manufacturing companies is seen as a massive resource for PAL Aerospace. Exchange Income Corporation, which trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the EIF ticker, has a market capitalization of over $1 billion.

EIC’s revenues jumped 10 per cent, to $891 million, in 2016 and net earnings soared 53 per cent to hit $61 million. The company’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, usually regarded as a solid measure of a business’ performance, rose 19 per cent to $213 million in 2016 compared to the previous year.

But, joining the Exchange Income fold has been about much more than just being able to draw on capital for PAL Aerospace. Exchange Income’s group of companies brings together expertise and resources in a wide range of related industries.

Exchange Income Corporation is a diversified company focused in two sectors: aerospace and aviation services and equipment, and manufacturing. The Aerospace & Aviation segment consists of the operations by Perimeter Aviation, Keewatin Air, Calm Air International, Bearskin Lake Air Service, Custom Helicopters, Regional One and PAL Aerospace. The Manufacturing segment consists of the operations by Jasper Tank, Overlanders Manufacturing, Water Blast Manufacturing, Stainless Fabrication, WesTower Communications and Ben Machine Products.

That group of companies will undoubtedly bolster PAL Aerospace going forward. The company’s Force Multiplier program, for example, could be expanded to other aircraft, including helicopters.

“Anything is an opportunity for us as we look at this as an operating model for any aircraft, any platform,” said PAL’s Sangster.

Flying high after landing the Canadian government’s FWSAR (Fixed Wing Search and Rescue Aircraft Replacement) program contract with Airbus Defense and Space, its partner for the C295 bid, the Newfoundland-based company is now on a hiring blitz. According to Sangster, many of the new jobs will be in Newfoundland as PAL Aerospace works to manufacturer equipment for Canada’s new C295 aircraft.

That contract alone is expected to create more than 110 jobs over the next three years. With its other work, PAL Aerospace is currently trying to hire 150 highly-skilled workers, in addition to the 100 hired within the last year. Throughout the world, the company currently employs about 1,000 people.

PAL is working with Airbus to provide ISS services on the C295W for the FWSAR program

Under the C295 contract, PAL Aerospace is handling the in-service support, essentially all aspects of maintenance work on the C295s outside of what will be done by Royal Canadian Air Force technicians. That means PAL Aerospace’s chunk of the work includes second and third-level maintenance, future modification work and depot level maintenance for these aircraft.

Airbus’ C295, a twin turboprop tactical military transport aircraft, is a darling of search and rescue organizations and those doing maritime patrol, air-to-air refueling, firefighting or handling troop transport. In its hangars, PAL Aerospace crews are pumped to be working on this new contract, often side by side with RCAF techs. There’s a new enthusiasm.

“PAL Aerospace is honoured to support the men and women of the Royal Canadian Air Force in their critical search and rescue mandate,” said Sangster. PAL Aerospace and Airbus Defense and Space will provide them with the proven C295 aircraft to support search and rescue missions anytime, anywhere in Canada.

“This contract will allow us to continue to serve the people of Canada with our solutions while also developing export opportunities for the future of the Canadian economy by working with Airbus Defence and Space and our other partners,” he said.

By James Risdon

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