250th Hammerhead milestone celebrated at A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd.

Tina
Tina Comeau
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Published on January 25, 2014

Workers at A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. surround the 250th Hammerhead produced at the Acadian boatyard in southwestern Nova Scotia. TINA COMEAU PHOTO</p>

Published on January 25, 2014

Spencer Fraser, president and general manager of Meggitt Training Systems Canada Inc., says the production of Hammerheads in Meteghan River has been a real success story. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Published on January 25, 2014

Workers at A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Published on January 25, 2014

Workers at A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. surround the 250th Hammerhead produced at the Acadian boatyard in southwestern Nova Scotia. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Published on January 25, 2014

Gilles Theirault of A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. says they are proud of the work they're doing on the Hammerheads. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Published on January 25, 2014

A Hammerhead under production. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Published on January 25, 2014

A Hammerhead under production. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Published on January 25, 2014

The 250th hammerhead milestone was celebrated in Meteghan River on Jan. 24. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Published on January 25, 2014

The 250th hammerhead milestone was celebrated in Meteghan River on Jan. 24. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Published on January 25, 2014

The 250th hammerhead milestone was celebrated in Meteghan River on Jan. 24. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Published on January 25, 2014

The 250th hammerhead milestone was celebrated in Meteghan River on Jan. 24. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Published on January 25, 2014

Hammerhead on the water. PHOTO COURTESY MEGGITT

Published on January 25, 2014

Swarm training using Hammerheads. PHOTO COURTESY MEGGITT

Published on January 25, 2014

Hammerhead on the water. PHOTO COURTESY MEGGITT

Published on January 25, 2014

Hammerhead on the water during training exercises. PHOTO COURTESY MEGGITT

By Tina Comeau

THE VANGUARD

www.thevanguard.ca

 

They are fired on by Canadian navy frigates. They have surface-to-air missiles shot at them in the surface mode. They’ve had bombs dropped on them by aircraft.

They are being used by 12 international customers on four continents in training exercises aimed at saving lives.

And it all begins in a boat yard in Meteghan River, Nova Scotia.

Talk about a success story.

At least that’s what Spencer Fraser, president of Meggitt Training Systems Canada Inc. of Medicine Hat, Alberta – a supplier of advanced target systems to militaries around the world – can’t do enough of, this being to talk about the success of the ongoing Hammerhead project.

“One of the things we don’t do enough in Canada is celebrate successes,” he says.

On Friday, Jan. 24, seven years into production, a ceremony was held at A.F. Theriault & Son Ltd., a boatyard in the Acadian heart of Clare in southwestern Nova Scotia, to celebrate the production of the 250th Hammerhead Unmanned Surface Vehicle – Target (USV-T). (You can watch a video from the ceremony by clicking here.)

These state-of-the-art unmanned vehicle systems can simulate threats at sea and are used in self-defence training exercises by the western navies, including the Royal Canadian Navy, and other military customers to train against deadly attacks.

The target drones, which are powered by a 3.0L inboard gas engine that delivers 135 HP, can reach speeds of up to 35 knots in certain sea states.

A.F. Theriault & Son – a privately owned, family-run business dating back to 1938 – is the only company in Canada building the Hammerhead hulls. They use advanced composites and a unique hull design. Beyond their involvement, around 100 other Canadian sub-contractors also partake in the production of the product.

Ever since the 2000 suicide attack bombing of the USS Cole, in which 17 American sailors were killed, western navies have focused on countering this type of deadly attack. The Hammerhead is a tool that allows them to do so.

One example of a threat that the Hammerheads help to train against is a swarm.

“If you come at a Canadian warship with a similar sized vessel, the odds of you surviving against a Royal Canadian Navy frigate, or a US ship, is minimal,” says Fraser. “But if I come at you with 50 guys on jet skis or boats, it’s like a swarm of bees."

“So the training scenarios vary from being a tracking scenario where they just want to do situational awareness . . . to going through their rules of engagement,” he explains. (You can see a Meggitt video posted to YouTube about the swarming training by clicking here.)

Fraser won’t discuss the costs of producing the Hammerheads – after all, he says, they wouldn’t want their competitors to go online and Google it. Because they’re meant to be an expendable, consumable product (how long the units last varies, depending on the training they’re being used for) the challenge was to produce them in a fiscally responsible fashion, which Fraser says has been achieved.

At the ceremony celebrating the 250th milestone – where there was talk of marking the 500th milestone years from now – Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil lauded the work carried out by A.F. Theriault & Son Ltd.

“They’ve convinced Albertans that we can build a product here in Nova Scotia that is world class that we can ship all over the world, instead of sending our sons and daughters to Alberta to build a product,” he said. “They were able to convince the Albertans to come to us.”

The boatyard’s general manager Gilles Theriault – noting that the company builds a variety of products from fishing vessels to a contract it’s working on now to build a passenger ferry for Halifax – says diversification in their product lines has been key to staying relevant and busy.

“Our employees are quite proud of what they achieve on a day-to-day basis and the Hammerhead is really exciting for them,” he says.

Meanwhile, although some of these units may have a short lifespan depending on how they’re used in training, others have more than proven their longevity.

“We have a unit 005, that target has been used off the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, it’s been to the Indian Ocean, it’s been to the Mediterranean, it’s been to the Baltic, it’s been to the North Atlantic, it’s been to the Caribbean, it’s been here to Digby Harbour,” says Fraser. “That one actually has lived so long it’s going into a museum.”

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Organizations: Royal Canadian Navy, Meggitt Training Systems Canada Inc. of Medicine Hat, HP Google

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Alberta, Canada Meteghan River US Halifax Good Hope South Africa Indian Ocean North Atlantic Caribbean

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