25 May 2016
Interview with Dr Andreas Knackstedt, CEO Rheinmetall Canada
"A highly innovative, multidisciplinary and reliable partner for the Canadian Government and Armed Forces"
Rheinmetall Canada was established thirty years ago, at that time still operating under the name of Oerlikon Aerospace. What is the main difference between Rheinmetall Canada today and the company in the old days?
Knackstedt: Rheinmetall Canada today is a highly innovative, multidisciplinary company with proven expertise and successes in several defence and commercial sectors. In the early Oerlikon Aerospace days, it was a very young enterprise with just one product: the Air Defence Anti-Tank System, or ADATS missile system. To begin with, the company’s main activities were the assembly, integration, testing and delivery of the ADATS to one customer only. Since then, we have branched out and now supply our products and services to customers around the world. We have four core competencies, each represented by a business line: vehicle integration, weapon systems, air defence and electronic systems.
What are the main projects the company has achieved thus far, and what future projects are on the horizon in the field of vehicle integration?
Knackstedt: Without a doubt, vehicle integration was one of the company’s first core competencies and remains a key to its future success. The ADATS project provided the company with extensive knowledge of sophisticated missile, radar, and electro-optics technologies as well as mechanical, electrical, and communications expertise with regard to vehicle platforms. This experience formed the basis for the company’s successful bid for vehicle integration contracts such as the Canadian Forces (CF) Battlefield Command Post, launch platforms for the CF Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, and more recently the repair and overhaul of Leopard 2 A4 MBTs. In addition, we converted Leopard MBTs into Leopard 2 Armoured Recovery Vehicles, and are now a key partner in the CF Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle project for vehicle integration functions, and will play a major role in long-term system support. Our vehicle integration expertise is becoming known abroad and as a result, the company has been asked to bid on an important vehicle integration project in the Middle East.
Could you also give us some examples concerning weapon systems?
Knackstedt: Rheinmetall Canada has been active since 2001 in the field of weapon systems, when we supplied the protected weapon stations that are still in use today by the Canadian Forces. Since then, Rheinmetall Canada has gone on to develop and produce the Nanuk weapon station for the Canadian Forces, and the Arrows weapon station for the French and Belgian armed forces. As we speak, qualification is almost complete on a dual weapon station for Algeria and live fire demonstrations are now taking place in South East Asia. The Close Area Suppression Weapon, or CASW, is the Canadian Army’s digitized 40mm grenade machine gun – another fine example of the company’s capabilities in system design and integration. While only a few subassemblies of the overall solution come from Rheinmetall, we had the expertise and experience to source key components and integrate them into a total solution that met the Army’s requirements – a true sign of a competent systems integrator. So with these successes, the future looks great for weapon systems.
What are the current and future projects in the field of air defence?
Knackstedt: As I’ve already mentioned, the ADATS project provided the company with broad experience in several technologies and gave us a great deal of credibility in the air defence domain. As such, we’re able to win air defence projects where our special understanding of air defence communications requirements s give us a strategic advantage. One of our most notable successes was the design and development of the Future Ground Base Air Defence System for the Royal Dutch Army. This solution integrates weapons, sensors, communications and battle management software, resulting in a cohesive layered air defence system. Elements of this solution were supplied earlier to the Finnish Defence Forces and Hellenic Army for their ASRAD air defence programmes. Recently, in collaboration with Elta of Israel, Rheinmetall Canada won the Multi-Mission Radar (MMR) contract for the Canadian Army. The MMR system can perform several missions, such as locating hostile weapons, artillery ranging and air surveillance. In a way, our roots and strength in air defence continue to be a strong factor today, enabling us to seize opportunities as they arise.
Could you also tell us something about your electronic systems?
Knackstedt: Back in 2000 the company started developing hardware and software for the Canadian Coast Guard’s digital selective communications system. Only two years later, we won a similar and unprecedented contract from the United States Coast Guard – the first time a Homeland Security contract was won by a non-US entity. But this was only the beginning, and in the meantime we’ve had too many successes in the electronic systems domain to mention. However, the two most outstanding developments have been are the creation of the Sensor Command & Control Software (SC2PS) and the Soldier System. First off, SC2PS is a real-time, multi-sensor application for exploiting data from various types of sensors, providing commanders with a powerful tool for analysis, mission planning and decision making. SC2PS is in service with the Canadian Army, Air Force and Navy. Rheinmetall’s Future Soldier System provides a common operating picture with important mission information such as friendly positions, enemy positions, and terrain overlaid on tactical maps. In addition, it includes a communications system to enable rapid exchange of voice and data. Rheinmetall is a leader in soldier systems, having provided the core computer and software used by a number of other armed forces, while its Argus Soldier System recently won a hard-fought contest for the Canadian Forces Integrated Soldier System. Once again, our expertise is being recognized globally and we’re now being invited to bid on other international programs.
What is the status of the Integrated Soldier System project?
Knackstedt: The ISS project is progressing and when the qualification is completed, production of 1,632 units of the Argus Soldier System will commence this year. The government has the option under this initial contract to purchase another 2,512 units, and a second contract could be awarded for product support, bringing the total award to up to CAN$250 million.
Rheinmetall recently completed delivery of twelve Leopard 2 Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARV) to the Canadian Forces. This certainly confirms Rheinmetall’s standing as a leading Leopard expert. Could you tell us more about the status of the other projects related to the Canadian main battle tanks?
Knackstedt: Rheinmetall Canada is now the prime contractor for in-service support and upgrades for the Leopard 2 A4s, and is currently bidding on a similar support contract for the Leopard 2 ARVs that we talked about earlier on. However, this is a fragmented approach, contract by contract. Rheinmetall’s objective is to serve as a long-term comprehensive service provider for the entire Leopard fleet, which would include the Main Battle Tanks 2A4, 2 A4M, 2 A6M and its variants, the Armoured Engineering and Recovery Vehicles.
One of the topics you address at CANSEC 2016 is Rheinmetall’s naval expertise. What makes Rheinmetall the partner of choice for the Royal Canadian Navy?
Knackstedt: Very simply put, the Rheinmetall family has a solid foundation in supplying sensors and effectors as well as a total ship training and simulation capability for platforms of all types. Recently, we’ve supplied the Multi-Ammunition Softkill System (MASS) for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Halifax-class frigate upgrade programme and the Marine Engineering Operator Simulator (MESO) for the RCN Reserve Kingston-class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel. Our goal is to bring our solutions and services to forthcoming RCN projects such as the Joint Support Ship (JSS) Berlin-class, the Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel (AOPS), and the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC). At CANSEC 2016, we will use augmented reality to promote several naval solutions such as the Biax and Triax, the company’s 2- and 3-axis radar tracking and fire control system, the MSP 600 multi-sensor platform, and the FIRST fast infrared search and track surveillance and alerting system. We will also be exhibiting the Rapid Access Structural Fire Protection System in partnership with CBG Systems. And at our outside booth, Rheinmetall – in collaboration with Elta of Israel – will be displaying a full-scale model of Elta’s MF-STAR radar, a potential candidate for the CSC project.
Rheinmetall Canada will be celebrating its thirtieth anniversary in 2016. Given the number of contracts won by the company, how has this affected the defence supply chain in Canada?
Knackstedt: Rheinmetall Canada has just reached a major milestone in completing over CAN$1 billion in Industrial and Technological Benefits transactions relating to its operations in Canada over the past 30 years. This important milestone for Rheinmetall Canada shows our commitment not only to providing the troops with the best-possible equipment, but also to strengthening Canada’s defence supply chain industry. ITB obligations have allowed us to create strong partnerships with suppliers from coast to coast. In fact, the company has completed over 5% of all Canadian ITB obligations since the inception of the policy by the federal government in the mid1980s. We have developed great expertise in fulfilling our obligations, and have clearly become a reliable partner for the Canadian government.