The following questions and answers were developed in conversation with Bruce Samuelsen.
Senior Vice President, COO &
President of Alion Canada
What are Alion's interests in Canada?
Alion views the Canadian naval and maritime sector as an attractive market to invest and expand our operations. We established Alion Canada specifically to address the NSPS needs. Our operations have grown to almost 100 professionals - engineers, naval architects and designers living and working in Canada. We are positioned to leverage significant bench strength from our US operations, consisting of approximately 2,500 staff, to support growth in Canada.
Alion employees are located at offices, customer sites and laboratories worldwide. We distribute our work teams to shipbuilder sites such as the Vancouver Shipyards (VSY), to efficiently carry out our design agent role. We are now involved with VSY in the Joint Support Ship (JSS) and Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel (OFSV) projects.
Alion was the prime design agent for the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers and C-47 Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser in the US Navy. It has grown its intellectual capital through hands-on experience and now manages the maintenance schedule and activities for a fleet of 165 ships in service to ensure operational and real-time support needs are met.
By establishing Alion Canada in 2009, Alion made a long-term commitment to this country. Alion’s pedigree and proven track record in the US allows it to transfer know-how, processes, tools and expertise in order to expand the domestic capability in Canada.
Our goal is to lead the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) design project. With a Canadian ship design presence and the deep bench strength and experience in the US, Alion is uniquely qualified to support the CSC program. This is a quantum leap for a sustainable and successful Canadian ship design industry.
Our participation in the CSC program would strengthen Alion Canada’a position to export its ship design capabilities to the broader global market. It will leverage existing Canadian partnerships and a completed CSC design baseline. Alion Canada has already successfully exported a ship design for the Australian MV Investigator ship which was designed in Canada, built in Singapore and delivered to Australia. This is a prime example of Alion’s business model: locally developed, globally delivered. Promoting Alion Canada’s ship design capability internationally will continue to support Canadian jobs and growth for the long-term. Alion’s approach to the CSC program will bring long-lasting economic benefits to Canada.
What does Alion bring to the CSC program that is special or that other teams do not have?
The ship design process is very complex and onerous taking into account all aspects of ship performance at sea as well as its warfighting capability. It is important to note that Alion is not promoting its own products or platforms. As a design agent, Alion retains the freedom to select the right components and systems, and to use its unique integration skillset to integrate these components into a optimum platform that is best-suited to Canada’s requirements. The Alion advantage rests on the flexibility to select a ‘best-in-class’ combat system to meet mission needs and operational requirements. Equally important is the fact that Alion’s platform and systems solutions are currently operational thereby reducing risk and cost for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and the Canadian taxpayer.
Alion has selected the Dutch De Zeven Provinciën Air Defence and Command (LCF) frigate as the baseline for CSC. Why? Because this platform meets all of the mandatory selection criteria without modification. By definition, it is the closest ship design to meeting Canada’s requirements. As a proven, operational in-service warship, the platform is a very robust starting point for Canada’s needs. As an added benefit, Alion’s low-risk solution could be brought to production very quickly for the RCN. This will accelerate the production process and will help restore a lost capability for the Navy.
Secondly, the primary focus of a modern warship design is the Above Water Warfare (AWW) capability. This is centred on three main components: the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) multimode radar; the missile launch system and surface-to-air missiles (SAM); and finally, the combat management system (situational awareness and combat engagement) decision aids. It is critical that the integration of these assets be proven, certified and in-service to reduce program risk. Through our partnership with Damen, Atlas Electronik, and Hendsoldt, we believe Alion’s solution meets these tests.
Alion agrees with the recent statements from the Parliamentary Budget Office and their assessment that any design that requires 20-30% modification is essentially a new design – which is intrinsically very high risk. The Alion approach requires substantially fewer modifications and provides the lowest risk approach to fulfilling Canada’s needs. Our value-added to Canada is to bring an operational off-the-shelf design, coupled with a proven combat system and ship platform, with minimal changes to meet Canada’s requirements.
Major warship design, production and introduction into service is a difficult task – how is Alion approaching this challenge?
Our strategy is to build a strong partnership with the prime contractor, with clearly defined specifications, statements of work and well-defined design, engineering and managerial integration and interfaces. Alion’s role is to mitigate risk by managing the total warship design especially the integration of the combat system and the ship platform. Our platform provider, Damen Shipbuilding, has designed and delivered over 6,000 vessels. Damen recognized internationally in ship design, production, tests and trials and are a significant partner as we transition the CSC design into production.
Similarly, our combat systems provider Atlas Electronik has managed several large scale projects and is ready to work with international and Canadian suppliers to furnish a solution based on its proven, open-architecture system. A key element of our combat systems is our radar, delivered by our partner Hensoldt. Damen, Atlas Electronik, and Hensoldt are committed partners on the Alion team. These companies bring impressive European capabilities to Canadian shipbuilding and working with Alion Canada bring new capability and work to Canada.
What about intellectual property (IP)? Is this an issue for Alion?
We believe we have a good solution. We and our partners have experience in delivering IP to a third-party shipbuilders to facilitate in-country production and support. This is a normal way of doing business internationally. However, should issues arise, Alion will work with the prime contractor and the Government of Canada to provide the IP to ensure CSC’s success while also protecting the competitive trade secrets of our partners and vendors. As a vendor-neutral prime, we can manage that in a manner that balances each party’s needs for the good of the overall program.
Another element of Canadian procurement is the Industrial Technological Benefits and Value Proposition (ITB/VP) requirements. How is Alion addressing the commitments required by Canada?
Alion is committed to serving Canada over the long-term, and the initial investments made in Canada to date have already generated jobs and economic benefit. Alion is invested in Canada.
As a naval ship designer, we continue to engage with our supply base to maximize Canadian content through small and medium enterprises or through the selection of leading domestic defence company products – our intent is to put Canadian products on Canadian ships!
Alion has met with businesses from coast-to-coast, looking for ways to create opportunities for Canadian industry and exports. With the support of partners, Alion is assembling a value proposition that promises to generate high-value work and sustainable economic benefits.