Wings Magazine

DND seeking protection system for VIP flights

July 30, 2014, Ottawa - The Canadian military is looking for an air defence system to protect its VIP aircraft, including the one used by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, from surface-to-air missiles.

July 30, 2014  By The Canadian Press

And one of Israel's top defence contractors, Elbit Systems Ltd., has
been working behind-the-scenes for months to get in on the anticipated
project. The downing of Malaysian Airlines jet MH-17 may have given
defence officials more urgency.


The program is meant to deliver a system that will "defeat
modern, man-portable infrared missiles," according to the military's
defence acquisition guide.



It's part of the National Defence acquisition
guide and intended for installation on the air force's remaining C-144
Challengers as well as the existing fleet of C-150 Polaris aircraft,
which includes the prime minister's Airbus.


The timeline for buying such a system was
originally set for 2020 and beyond, but a government source says
officials are taking a closer look at it in light of the tragedy over
eastern Ukraine and last week's suspension of flights into Tel Aviv
following Hamas rocket attacks near Ben Gurion International Airport.


Three commercial Israeli carriers
— El Al Israel Airlines, Arkia Israeli Airlines and Israir Airlines —
are all installing an Elbit system known as C-Music, which has a Hebrew
name that translates to “Sky Shield.”

Recently, a senior Elbit official — speaking
only on background because of the sensitivity of discussions — said
they've been working through the newly established defence co-operation
channels with Canada and hope to sell the advanced device to the air


The system — a pod that is bolted to the underside of the aircraft — detects incoming missiles with a thermal camera.


When the missile gets close enough, the system
fires a laser which deflects the missile off of its trajectory and
allows it explode a safe distance away.


The Israeli defence ministry, in a written
statement earlier this year, described C-Music as "the most advanced
system of its kind in the world," something that "will provide ultimate
defence to planes.”


It is designed for both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.


Both the Brazilian and Italian air forces have
ordered it and Israel's transportation ministry said earlier this year
that the devices would be installed on all of the country's airliners.


The missile that brought down the MH-17 over
insurgent-dominated eastern Ukraine was believed to be a sophisticated
radar-guided system mounted on an armoured vehicle.


C-Music would not be effective against the kind
of military threat posed the Buk system, which is believed to have been
supplied to rebels by Russia.


Defence experts have been sounding the alarm for
the last couple of years about the proliferation of shoulder-fired
weapons, some of which were looted from Libyan dictator Muammar
Gaddafi's arsenal during the Arab Spring uprisings.


The Israelis, however, have been concerned about the possible threat to their jets for over a decade.


In 2002, terrorists fired shoulder-launched
missiles at an Israeli Arkia Airlines passenger plane as it was taking
off from Mombasa in Kenya. While the two missiles missed their target,
the incident galvanized the political and military establishment to
develop some kind of defence.


Israel is the only country to have mandated the
technology its airlines and the aviation industry as a whole remains
skeptical, citing concerns about pilot training and the enormous, added
cost, which the U.S. government estimated four years ago to be around


Canadian military transports, such the massive
C-17s and C-130J Hercules which routinely fly into unstable regions, are
equipped with counter-measure devices.


But the C-150 Polaris, of which there are five, has no defensive suite.


One of the jets is permanently
assigned to VIP transport, including the prime minister, the governor
general and the Royal Family when they are in Canada. The others are
tasked as either troop transports — or high altitude refuelling stations
for CF-18s.


The Harper government recently ordered the
decommissioning of two of the air force's six executive Challenger jets
because of old age. At least two more are due to be retired, but the
remaining pair are expected to stay in service well past 2020.


Stories continue below