Canadian Arctic Surveillance - Is the MQ-4C Triton Hale UAV The Answer?

DAVEBLOGGINS

Committed member
Naval Specialist
Professional
Messages
206
Reactions
8 333
Nation of residence
Canada
Nation of origin
Canada
CANADIAN ARCTIC SURVEILLANCE-IS THE MQ-4C TRITON HALE UAV the ANSWER?

Automating Arctic Surveillance & Defence:

In light of the impact that global warming is having on Canada’s northern borders and the prevalence of increased Arctic activity by countries other than Canada, it is becoming more urgent than ever, that Canada take measures to display and maintain surveillance and sovereignty in our high Arctic. This article outlines the capabilities that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) can provide as well as show how their capabilities can assist in achieving Canada’s national defence surveillance requirements. Specifically, one UAV, the MQ-4C Triton High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drone will be reviewed by applying its capabilities to aerospace power, it’s characteristics and applications for Canada.

The Minister of National Defences’(MNDs) Mandate Letter, directed to him, by the Prime Minister (Minister of National Defence Mandate Letter-Ottawa, 2015), http://pm.gc.ca/eng/minister-national-defence-mandate-letter, to renew Canada’s focus on surveillance and control of Canadian territory and approaches, particularly our Arctic regions. With the anticipated opening of the Northwest Passage and increases to maritime trade and air traffic, Canada must augment its maritime aviation security to adequately monitor its vast borders, national waters and airspace, particularly in the Arctic. One could, however, question whether the aerospace powers that the RCAF currently possess are sufficient in numbers and capability.

In order to fulfill its national defence requirements, the United States is currently increasing its use of military-specific UAVs. One UAV in particular is Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Block 40 Global Hawk HALE, which operates active electronically scanned array radars that deliver higher resolution than that available in baseline systems, as well as integrated sensor suites that synthesize inputs from the system’s radar, cameras, and other sensors. As a result, the RQ-4 Global Hawk can conduct air-to-air surveillance as well as track individuals, vessels and ground vehicles. While the United States has utilized the Global Hawk for many years, recently the Navy has changed its focus towards another Northrop Grumman Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), the MQ-4C Triton HALE UAV. This is a variant of the RQ-4 Global Hawk that is more in line with maritime requirements, hence, it is called the MQ-4C Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS).

The aerospace power characteristics that are inherent within this drone have made it a sought after capability for Nations world-wide. The MQ-4C Triton HALE UAV is suitable for conducting continuous sustained operations over an area of interest at long ranges. It relays maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information directly to maritime commanders. Characteristics of the MQ-4C Triton include:

a. A maximum altitude of 60,000 ft;

b. A strengthened forward fuselage to the protect various sensors;

c. Can fly up to 28 hours in a single sortie. If not refueled (in-flight), has a range of 9,950 nautical miles and fly for 30 hours maximum;

d. Internal payload of 1,452kg and External payload of 1,089kg;

e. Sensors – the Naval-technology project information outlines the following sensors for the MQ-4C Triton:

(1) 360-degree Field Of Radar (FOR) sensors;

(2) Multifunction Active Sensor (MFAS);

(3) Electronically steered array radar;

(4) Electro-Optical Infrared Sensor (EO/IR);

(5) Automatic Identification System receiver (AIS);

(6) Electronic Support Measures (ESM);

(7) Satellite Communications relay equipment;

(8) Multi-Function Information Display System (MIDS)/Link-16;

(9) Multi-spectral Targeting System (MTS-B) (high resolution imagery and full motion video);

(10) tracks and detects emitters of interest (AN/ZLQ-1 ESM);

f. A maritime surveillance and reconnaissance coverage radius of 2,000 nautical miles;

g. Sensitivity to Environment Conditions - radomes provide protection from lightening, hail and bird-strikes along with a wing and engine de-icing system;

h. Speed – 357mph; and

i. Support – according to the project information provided by Naval Technology, the MQ-4C Triton is operated by four-man crews (air vehicle operator, mission commander and two sensor operators). The ground station includes the following:

(1) Launch and Recovery Element – responsible for ground support equipment and landing/take-off operations; and

(2) Mission Control Element – responsible for mission planning, coordinating launch and recovery, image analysis and monitoring of communications.

As the focus of world power shifts from west to east, Australia is playing a greater role and is stepping up, including its willingness to bolster its military across the board. Australia is clearly on its way to surpassing Canada as an influential middle power. It is beyond cliché in Canadian defence circles, to look to Australia while lamenting the failures of Canadian procurement policy. Australians, as evidenced by equipment quality and age, quite simply, do it better – and have done so over and over again. Canada’s military capability is continuing to decline not only against Australia’s, but just about every Allied country. Holland, for example, just received the first of its new F-35 stealth fighters. In addition, Australia has a capability Canada only briefly consideredtwo amphibious assault ships. This level of power-projection signifies a serious commitment by an allied nation. The growing discrepancy with Australia is all the more stark when considering that Canada has 12.5 million more people and a half-trillion-dollar GDP advantage. Not to mention 202,000 kilometres of coastline to monitor and defend, harbouring the world’s second largest landmass with the corresponding airspace. Additionally, the arctic region is now being threatened by a newly belligerent, rearming Russia, which compels Canada and the U.S. to jointly defend a vast airspace extending far beyond their sovereign borders. Canada currently spends about 1.23% of its GDP on the military (among the lowest rates of any NATO ally), compared to roughly 2% in Australia – more than making up for Australia’s smaller GDP. Canada has fallen behind it’s closest allies – by numerous measures, far behind.

The capabilities of the MQ-4C Triton HALE UAV has caught the keen interest of Australia who signed a deal with Northrup Grumman (NG) on 28 February 2019 for 6 MQ-4C Triton UAS at a cost of 5.1B USD including moveable ground stations and training. This purchase will be phased in over the next several years and all should be operational by the mid 2020s. Australia has already contracted Northrop Grumman to deliver the first of these platforms, as well as related operating bases and training, and has approved NG to proceed with the second UAS on 27 March 2019. According to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, “these aircraft will patrol Australia’s vast ocean approaches, and work closely with other existing and future Australian Defence Force [ADF] assets to secure their ocean resources, including energy resources off northern Australia, and help to protect their borders”.

Since Germany cancelled its EURO Global Hawk HALE UAV programme in 2013, the German Defence Ministry is evaluating a recently submitted formal bid from Transport Canada for their prototype Global Hawk HALE UAV aircraft. This aircraft is now incapable of flight after it was stripped of key equipment and demilitarized by the United States in 2017. This drone has been parked at a German air base for the past few years. Canadian media have reported that Transport Canada could use this drone, built by Northrop Grumman, to monitor oil spills, ice levels and marine habitats in remote Arctic regions.

For the Canadian Forces, the capabilities integral to the MQ-4C Triton HALE UAV BAMS, would provide aerospace power that is suitable for support, observation (through MIDS/LINK 16 Data SATCOM) and add a persistent presence in the arctic. It would provide for the tracking of civilian aircraft and vessels and assist in maritime patrols (including the kind now conducted by the civilian National Aerial Surveillance Program operated by Transport Canada) along with search and rescue. Canada missed a golden opportunity to acquire a fleet of what NG called the MQ-4C Polar Hawk HALE UAV variant which has a wing de-icing and engine anti-icing capability. In 2012, NG made an offer to Canada for the Polar Hawk UAV at a then, reasonable price of $215M USD per unit including ground stations and training. When there was no credible movement by Canada, Northrup Grumman quickly recinded the offer.

One of the priorities that our Prime Minister has listed, is the Defence of Canada’s national interests. The challenges inherent with this are related to Canada’s vast borders, maritime waters and airspace. The US has been very much focused on utilizing the technological advances associated with UAVs. In particular, the US is now looking towards the UAS capability of the MQ-4C Triton HALE UAV BAMS to assist in its broad maritime surveillance requirements. This UAS has the necessary aerospace power characteristics that would enable it to fulfill some key Canadian aerospace surveillance requirements.

Conclusion:

Canada is effectively ceding its century-old role as a middle power and, before long, the Australian “kangaroo” will be a far more respected and feared symbol in the world’s skies than the maple leaf. When one considers the anticipated increase of air and maritime traffic in the Arctic, now is the time for Canada to invest in this Arctic Defence Surveillance capability. Not with-standing Transport Canada’s efforts to acquire the German EURO Hawk drone, having a fleet of at least 5 or 6 MQ-4C Triton HALE UAV BAMS, as Australia already has invested in, at a cost of between $4 to 5B CAD over the next several years, would help to not only meet the demands imposed by a changing northern environment but would achieve interoperability with our allies and provide aerospace functions that will benefit all Canadians.
 

Ted Barnes

Active member
Naval Specialist
Professional
Messages
90
Reactions
1 101
Nation of residence
Canada
Nation of origin
Canada
To be effective in the Arctic these types of drones need reliable satellite coverage, that does not exist in the Arctic. I had this exact conversation last year with someone that looks after Canadian military drones procurement in Ottawa.
 

DAVEBLOGGINS

Committed member
Naval Specialist
Professional
Messages
206
Reactions
8 333
Nation of residence
Canada
Nation of origin
Canada
To be effective in the Arctic these types of drones need reliable satellite coverage, that does not exist in the Arctic. I had this exact conversation last year with someone that looks after Canadian military drones procurement in Ottawa.
Hello Ted Barnes. Yes, you are absolutely correct! Canada needs to have continual satellite monitoring of the Arctic particularly in a rapid warming region. Satellite coverage is both insufficient and unavailable and Canada needs to support a larger and more complex satellite system. This means that we are often flying blind with incomplete data. That is why both Finland and Denmark are recommending highly elliptical orbit satellite systems with up to three of these positioned to continually keep an eye on the Arctic at all times as the earth travels its elliptical path. Having and launching these satellites are both difficult and expensive though. However, this could be done with cooperation ($$) from agencies such as the Canadian and European Space Agencies and NASA/NOAA. In my opinion (IMO) more reason now to acquire High Altitude Long Range (HALE) drones to fill in the gaps before these satellites can be acquired.;)
 

Ted Barnes

Active member
Naval Specialist
Professional
Messages
90
Reactions
1 101
Nation of residence
Canada
Nation of origin
Canada
Hello Ted Barnes. Yes, you are absolutely correct! Canada needs to have continual satellite monitoring of the Arctic particularly in a rapid warming region. Satellite coverage is both insufficient and unavailable and Canada needs to support a larger and more complex satellite system. This means that we are often flying blind with incomplete data. That is why both Finland and Denmark are recommending highly elliptical orbit satellite systems with up to three of these positioned to continually keep an eye on the Arctic at all times as the earth travels its elliptical path. Having and launching these satellites are both difficult and expensive though. However, this could be done with cooperation ($$) from agencies such as the Canadian and European Space Agencies and NASA/NOAA. In my opinion (IMO) more reason now to acquire High Altitude Long Range (HALE) drones to fill in the gaps before these satellites can be acquired.;)
Canada has already expanded its coverage of the Arctic through the RADARSAT constellation, its satellites pass over the Arctic four times a day and over the entire NW passage twice a day. The frequency of its passes is more than sufficient for detection and movement of ships. Unless we have continuous coverage which we more than likely won't, any drone coverage simply won't work, DND is not considering this whatsoever.
 

Nilgiri

Experienced member
Moderator
Aviation Specialist
Messages
9,450
Reactions
107 19,156
Nation of residence
Canada
Nation of origin
India
Unless we have continuous coverage which we more than likely won't, any drone coverage simply won't work, DND is not considering this whatsoever.

You have a source for this? Last I chatted with some folks, molniya orbits are being looked into. At least that was what my contact in UTIAS told me is being funded....for about 15 years or so now.
 

DAVEBLOGGINS

Committed member
Naval Specialist
Professional
Messages
206
Reactions
8 333
Nation of residence
Canada
Nation of origin
Canada
Canada has already expanded its coverage of the Arctic through the RADARSAT constellation, its satellites pass over the Arctic four times a day and over the entire NW passage twice a day. The frequency of its passes is more than sufficient for detection and movement of ships. Unless we have continuous coverage which we more than likely won't, any drone coverage simply won't work, DND is not considering this whatsoever.
Yes please. I would like to know your source for this comment. Cheers!:)
 

Ted Barnes

Active member
Naval Specialist
Professional
Messages
90
Reactions
1 101
Nation of residence
Canada
Nation of origin
Canada
You have a source for this? Last I chatted with some folks, molniya orbits are being looked into. At least that was what my contact in UTIAS told me is being funded....for about 15 years or so now.


I agree that using drones would a effective way to patrol the Arctic, based out of Iqaluit and other areas but as I said there are coverage gaps. To operate these large drones you need continuous coverage, and not just continuous coverage, you also need the C2 and the bandwidth. Currently there are gaps past 65N due to the satellite constellation, the infrastructure is just not there currently. Nav Canada is playing around with smaller drones but are running into similar problems. The Polar Hawk or something similar would be great for arctic and coastal surveillance but we need a more coverage.

The Enhanced Satcom Project has promise to fix these issues and provide continuous coverage however years away.

One just needs to do a little goggling to see what the coverage and frequency of passes for RADARSAT. I have a source in DND that has looked at the current coverage for high altitude drones for the Arctic, and unless the coverage is better you won't be seeing these types of drones.


 

DAVEBLOGGINS

Committed member
Naval Specialist
Professional
Messages
206
Reactions
8 333
Nation of residence
Canada
Nation of origin
Canada
I agree that using drones would a effective way to patrol the Arctic, based out of Iqaluit and other areas but as I said there are coverage gaps. To operate these large drones you need continuous coverage, and not just continuous coverage, you also need the C2 and the bandwidth. Currently there are gaps past 65N due to the satellite constellation, the infrastructure is just not there currently. Nav Canada is playing around with smaller drones but are running into similar problems. The Polar Hawk or something similar would be great for arctic and coastal surveillance but we need a more coverage.

The Enhanced Satcom Project has promise to fix these issues and provide continuous coverage however years away.

One just needs to do a little goggling to see what the coverage and frequency of passes for RADARSAT. I have a source in DND that has looked at the current coverage for high altitude drones for the Arctic, and unless the coverage is better you won't be seeing these types of drones.


"One just needs to do a little goggling to see what the coverage and frequency of passes for RADARSAT. I have a source in DND that has looked at the current coverage for high altitude drones for the Arctic, and unless the coverage is better you won't be seeing these types of drones."

Hello again Ted Barnes. Unless you can quote your DND "source", your comments don't seem to "hold water". Google, in most cases is not an accurate source. Can you give us a quote from the "Enhanced Satcom Project"?;)
 

Ted Barnes

Active member
Naval Specialist
Professional
Messages
90
Reactions
1 101
Nation of residence
Canada
Nation of origin
Canada
"One just needs to do a little goggling to see what the coverage and frequency of passes for RADARSAT. I have a source in DND that has looked at the current coverage for high altitude drones for the Arctic, and unless the coverage is better you won't be seeing these types of drones."

Hello again Ted Barnes. Unless you can quote your DND "source", your comments don't seem to "hold water". Google, in most cases is not an accurate source. Can you give us a quote from the "Enhanced Satcom Project"?;)
Hi, it seems you are inferring I am lying or otherwise making this up. Been to the Arctic many times and know exactly the type of communications we have above 65 degrees.

Enhanced SATCOM project





 

DAVEBLOGGINS

Committed member
Naval Specialist
Professional
Messages
206
Reactions
8 333
Nation of residence
Canada
Nation of origin
Canada
Hi, it seems you are inferring I am lying or otherwise making this up. Been to the Arctic many times and know exactly the type of communications we have above 65 degrees.

Enhanced SATCOM project





Hello Ted. I am not saying anything about lying or making anything up. I am sure you are right. Just wanted to get some accurate info from your DND source about current coverages or lack thereof. He seems to be in-the-know on this issue. That's all myself and I believe Nilgirl wanted to know. This is a fun forum and not a place to get riled up over nothing.:cool:
 

Ted Barnes

Active member
Naval Specialist
Professional
Messages
90
Reactions
1 101
Nation of residence
Canada
Nation of origin
Canada
Hello Ted. I am not saying anything about lying or making anything up. I am sure you are right. Just wanted to get some accurate info from your DND source about current coverages or lack thereof. He seems to be in-the-know on this issue. That's all myself and I believe Nilgirl wanted to know. This is a fun forum and not a place to get riled up over nothing.:cool:
No worries I provided verifiable links to everything I stated. My "source" provided me with simply that the coverage degrades over 65 degrees which I provided a online source. I will not provide any other information, only the opinion that drones in the context of what you stated are years away from realization. I noticed that based on your articles isn't your name David Dunlop?
 

DAVEBLOGGINS

Committed member
Naval Specialist
Professional
Messages
206
Reactions
8 333
Nation of residence
Canada
Nation of origin
Canada
No worries I provided verifiable links to everything I stated. My "source" provided me with simply that the coverage degrades over 65 degrees which I provided a online source. I will not provide any other information, only the opinion that drones in the context of what you stated are years away from realization. I noticed that based on your articles isn't your name David Dunlop?
I read all your articles with interest. It seems as if DND wants this to happen but would like some input ($$) from other Arctic states. Yes, to your last question. :)
 
L

LegionnairE

Guest
It's an incredibly capable platform, but shouldn't buying an AEWC aircraft like E-7 be a priority for canada at this time?
 

Follow us on social media

Top Bottom