The Ploughshares Monitor Winter 2011 Volume 32 Issue 4
The 20 largest military prime contractors in Canada won over $3.3-billion in orders during the 2010-11 fiscal year, according to official sources.1 Most prime contracts—over $2-billion in value—were awarded by the Department of National Defence (DND) (see the attached table below). The remaining $1.3-billion in orders were awarded by the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a Crown corporation that arranges back-to-back contracts between Canadian-based suppliers and foreign military customers, predominantly the Pentagon.
General Dynamics Land Systems Canada was again the outstanding prime contractor in 2010-11, winning $764-million in orders. Most were placed by the Pentagon for Stryker combat vehicles and mine-resistant transport vehicles for U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. GDLS Canada has been a dominant military prime contractor in Canada for over two decades, delivering thousands of armoured vehicles to the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia.
Other contractors represent the range of equipment and services provided by the Canadian military industry. Irving Shipbuilding (No. 2) and Victoria Shipyards (No. 3) won Canadian navy contracts related to the refit of Halifax class frigates. Canadian Submarine Management Group (No. 8) also won navy orders for Victoria class submarine support. General Dynamics OTS Canada (No. 4) was awarded contracts for ammunition and explosives from the Canadian and U.S. armies. Other companies received contracts to provide military electronics (Ultra Electronics), armour (Armatec), and logistics services (SNC Lavalin PAE).
The majority of Canada’s largest military prime contractors are aerospace companies. These include Harris Canada (No. 5), which won DND orders to provide weapon systems avionics to upgrade CF-18 fighter aircraft. Top Aces (No. 6) contracted for pilot training with the Canadian air force. Canadian Helicopters was awarded U.S. contracts for military helicopter services in Afghanistan and elsewhere. In the sole example during the year of a substantial prime contract from outside DND and the Pentagon, Viking Air won a $69-million order to supply 12 Twin Otter aircraft to the Peruvian armed forces.
It is important to note that the ranking of Canadian military prime contractors does not include all major military contractors in Canada. Many companies with significant military sales are omitted from the table because most of their orders occur as subcontracts. Prime contractors also may be awarded subcontracts by other companies. However, especially in cases in which Canadian subsidiaries supply foreign parent corporations, subcontracts generally are not reported. The subcontract data that is made public is insufficient for comparative purposes.
Although this ranking of prime contractors cannot provide a comprehensive picture of Canadian military sales, it offers important insight into Canada’s military corporations as well as the nature, volume, and location of military production. Military contracting is a multi-billion-dollar industry that extends from coast to coast in Canada. Most large contractors are located in Quebec and Ontario, although the latest ranking suggests that the greater Toronto area is not the military powerhouse it once was. Significantly, the latest contract figures cover a time of peak global military expenditures. Future contract tables will demonstrate how much the imminent decline in military spending will affect Canadian contractors.