Cool for CATS [CANSEC2016D1]

25 May 2016

In February, CAE submitted a bid to provide adversary and threat training, target-towing and electronic warfare (EW) training environments to the Canadian Armed Forces. The company has teamed with Draken International of the USA for the CATS (Contracted Airborne Training Services) programme, which is expected to lead to a 10-year contract being awarded around the end of the year.

CAE and Draken’s joint venture (Draken Canada) is based in Canada, and aims to deliver a range of training services to all three services. To provide threat aircraft the team is proposing using Draken’s fleet of updated Douglas A-4 Skyhawks. Draken has a growing number of these nimble fighters, including ex-Israeli A-4Ns and former Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) A-4Ks. Before they were prematurely retired from RNZAF service, the A-4Ks had been upgraded with APG-66 radar – as used in the Lockheed Martin F-16 – and many other advanced systems as part of the Project Kahu programme, allowing them to replicate fourth-generation aircraft in terms of systems capabilities.

Further upgrade

The Skyhawks would be further upgraded with night-vision goggles, IFF Mode S transponders, targeting pod capability and the ability to undertake GPS approaches to meet DND requirements. One of the A-4N Skyhawk aircraft is being shown to guests during the CANSEC show at the adjacent Ottawa airport, resplendent in Canadian colours.

To answer the CATS requirement, Draken Canada is bidding the provision of 16 Skyhawks as MCSF (multi-role combat support fighter) aircraft, 10 of which are to be two-seaters.

Half of the fleet would be based at Cold Lake, Alberta, and the other half at Bagotville, Quebec, to support the Royal Canadian Air Force’s two CF-188 Hornet bases.

Maintenance would be conducted at CAE’s Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, facility.

MEA target tugs

As well as the MCSF aircraft, the CAE/Draken team is proposing to use two CAE-owned Learjet 35 medium endurance aircraft (MEAs). They would feature the ability to carry various pods and towed targets, as well as having a retractable electro-optical targeting pod. They would also get Mode S transponders, and have EW systems installed. The MEAs would operate from FBOs in Halifax and Victoria, primarily supporting the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Army.

CAE brings a wealth of systems integration and simulation experience to the joint venture, while Draken operates the world’s largest fleet of privately operated fighter aircraft. Draken has been flying in support of the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps for some time, and its crews have regularly provided adversaries for fifth-generation aircraft such as the F-22 and F-35.

LVC development

In addition to the live aircraft training, the bid includes simulation to maximise the training benefits of real flight hours. Moreover, CAE and Draken are proposing a research and development programme to develop the next generation of LVC (live – virtual – constructive) training capabilities for threat adversary air training. For instance, this could provide the capability to insert additional threat aircraft into a real training scenario, or to virtually ‘alter’ the type of adversary so that the Skyhawk appears on the fighter’s cockpit displays as a ‘Flanker’, for instance.

Although Canada’s CATS programme is the initial target for the teaming arrangement, other opportunities exist as contractorised training becomes more prevalent in western air arms. The UK, for instance, is expected to centralise its target facilities and threat adversary efforts into a single contractorised programme that will also take over the naval missile simulation and forward air control training efforts that are currently conducted using the soon-to-be-retired Hawk T.Mk 1 aircraft. CAE also reports further opportunities in the Asia- Pacific region.

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