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Imagine you are a seasoned naval aviator piloting a multimillion-dollar aircraft returning from a critical mission. Landing on a small platform on a moving ship is difficult enough, but today you must contend with stormy seas—now the target is not only small, but constantly moving. However, you are a professional who can and will make this landing. Now all you have to worry about is rolling overboard.
Indal Technologies, a business unit of Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, designs and develops equipment that helps military pilots land their aircraft on navy ships even in hazardous conditions. This is technology designed to preserve not only aircraft, but the lives of both pilots and crew. There simply is no margin for error. This is a solution that requires a highly educated and skilled workforce to design and build it. And because of the sophisticated nature of this technology, access to an extremely robust aerospace supply chain is a must. This is why Indal operates out of Mississauga, Ontario.
“We make a number of [naval aviation] systems and they’re all related to supporting helicopters and fixed wing aircraft on ships at sea. It’s a difficult task to land a helicopter on a very small platform that’s moving violently in rough seas,” explains Don McKay, director of sales and marketing at Indal.
Indal designs and builds a number of solutions that serve a diverse global customer base:
RAST (Recovery Assist, Secure and Traverse)
ASIST (Aircraft Ship Integrated Secure and Traverse)
TC-ASIST (Twin Claw ASIST)
MANTIS (a specialized battery powered aircraft handler)
MAST (Manual Aircraft Secure and Traverse).
“Over the course of our history, we’ve delivered 215 RAST systems, 46 ASIST systems, 10 TC-ASIST systems and over 200 MANTIS systems,” says McKay.
In the RAST system, a helicopter hovering over the flight deck of a ship lowers a cable, which is attached to a winch. The chopper is then guided down to the deck. But the helicopter is not out of danger yet: “Once you’re on a wet deck, the ship is rolling and your rotors are turning, the helicopter is vulnerable,” states McKay.
To prevent the chopper from being washed overboard, a RAST “capture device” secures the helicopter once it lands. The aircraft is then traversed along a track in the deck into a hangar.
Indal was incorporated in 1951 as Dominion Aluminum Fabricators in Etobicoke, Ontario. New ownership, a name change and a move to Mississauga followed in subsequent years. Indal today is a business unit of Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, which is owned by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Royal Canadian Navy uses RAST on Halifax class frigates. The U.S. navy likewise has RAST on some ships. ASIST has been acquired by navies in Chile, Turkey, Malaysia, the United States and Australia. ASIST will be used on the Royal Canadian Navy’s forthcoming Joint Support Ship (JSS) and Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) vessels.
The company’s current location—far from Canada’s coastline—is a bit of ironic good fortune, says McKay. “It is a little odd that we do naval equipment from Mississauga. You would think we would be in Halifax or Vancouver. It’s actually a very good place,” he says.
“[Indal] is definitely a success story: We export around the world. We touch about 26 navies overall with our equipment. Everything we do is designed here. We don’t farm it out to any other part of Curtiss-Wright. They are our products. We design them, test them, build them, support them in the field. So, cradle to grave product support. That’s a key thing we’re able to bring to market,” he says.
June 14, 2016
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All figures are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted. Information is accurate at the time of publication.