Rolling up to Ottawa’s airport-adjacent convention centre, my cab driver was asked to pull over near a small group of protestors. A security guard carefully inspected my driver’s license before we were allowed any closer.
This isn’t normal for this venue: one of the last events held here was the local comic book convention.
But this week is different. It was the two-day CANSEC defence and security trade show, where some 11,000 participants from all over the world pored over the latest and greatest in deadly military technology.
There were speeches from two Canadian cabinet ministers: Defence minister Harjit Sajjan, Public Services and Procurement minister Judy Foote, and the Chief of the Defence Staff.
But the real action was on the crowded convention floor, where some of the biggest defence companies in the world showed their stuff in flashy booths. There were guns, armoured cars, various robotic vehicles and lots of model planes and ships, all on offer to delegations from some 70 countries.
For the most part, the merchants were willing to talk about what they had to offer. Here are a few of the things on display:
A whole lot of guns
The Beretta display at one end of the convention floor was hard to miss: two tables with a wide variety of guns.
Sylvain Trudel from Stoeger Canada, Beretta’s Canadian distributor, took me through the different models. They included pistols (some of which he said are used by CBSA), the Benelli M4 semi-automatic (popular with law enforcement) and the one he seemed most excited by: the Sako M-10 sniper rifle, that can be completely disassembled, stowed in a backpack, and reassembled without any tools.
“You don’t want to be Mister Captain Obvious, walking around with a barrel sticking out of your backpack to do a job,” said Trudel.
“Let’s say it’s Canada Day and they need to go on top of a building to cover the building without being the guy in uniform. The guy can dress in civvies, have his long-range rifle with him, go do his job on top. Nobody knows what he’s there for. Nobody’s got a weird spider-sense of, ‘What’s going on here?’
“He goes on top, sets up his rifle, and he’s good to take a two-kilometre shot. (…) When he walks out at the end of the day, without anything happening, he puts everything back in the little backpack, walks away as a civilian guy with a backpack. Nobody knew he was there.”
A dog-mounted camera
Dogs can help in combat too. Or police operations, or search-and-rescue.
And if you attach a camera to its back, you can see what the dog sees: in this case, live video in low light or no light. The video signal can be read from up to 300 yards away, through three reinforced walls.
The dog would be sent in first to check out a scene before humans, explained Jason Williams of Watec Cameras. “Imagine a military team, a special forces group, come up on a building and they’ve got to go in and they’ve got to basically secure each room,” he said. “They’ll send him in so they can ID where the bad guys are in the building.”
When asked about the dog’s safety, Williams answered, “Dogs are going in anyway.”
The camera system is no more risk than they’re already being exposed to, he said.
A remote-controlled vehicle turret
After a brief conversation with a colleague in Norwegian (I’m guessing), Scott Hall of Kongsberg, a Norwegian weapons control firm, agreed to explain the Kongsberg Protector remote weapons station to me.
Essentially, it’s a turret that can be moved around with something that looks like a video game controller. A screen on the controller shows video of whatever the turret is pointed at, and allows you to zoom in or switch to a thermal image. It can be attached to a wide variety of vehicles, including armoured trucks and boats.
The major advantage: a soldier doesn’t have to leave the relative safety of the vehicle to look around or fire a weapon. They can stay in the car, safety behind armour.
“They no longer have to put a soldier up on top of the vehicle and expose that soldier to anything from sniper fire, to IEDs or rollovers,” said Hall.
Kongsberg doesn’t actually make any weapons that might be attached to the turret, they just make the platform itself. It’s used by 17 nations, including Canada, said Hall.
A new armoured truck for Canada
The TAPV armoured vehicle was parked in a smaller, sunny display area outside the convention hall. Canada’s already ordered 500 of them, and they should begin arriving in August, according to Brad Drake of Textron Systems.
The TAPV (tactical armoured patrol vehicle) is meant to replace the military’s current Coyote reconnaissance vehicle and the RG-31 armoured patrol vehicle. It provides better armour protection against things like improvised explosive devices, said Drake. Many of them will also be equipped with the Kongsberg Protector remote weapons platform mentioned above, meaning that soldiers won’t have to get out of the vehicle in order to fire.