CASR – Canadian American Strategic Review – Background – JUSTAS

CASR | BG UAVs | BG JUSTAS | Background | JUSTAS Project Timeline | In Detail

JUSTAS Project  –  Joint Uninhabited Surveillance and Target Acquisition System  UAVs

Officially, DND's JUSTAS Project for UAVs dates back to Sept 2000 (for details, see CASR's JUSTAS Project Timeline). Within the month, this experimental  UAV concept was approved by the DND Senior Review Board (SRB). The Canadian Forces Experimental Centre did some trials with leased UAVs in 2002.  Then, in the Summers of  2003 and 2004, single examples of medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs were leased from their makers for field trials.

By Aug 2006, it had been decided that the $500M JUSTAS Project should be implemented in two phases. 'Phase 1' of  the JUSTAS Project was to cover an 'overland capability' – in other words, UAVs able to perform  non-maritime surveillance over  Canada and  for expeditionary forces overseas. It was expected that  Phase 1 could be satisfied with 6 x MALE UAVs (later revised to 'weaponized' or armed MALE UAVs). JUSTAS Phase 2 covered domestic maritime surveillance and 'Northern Patrols' over the Canadian Arctic. It was anticipated that Phase 2 would require 6 x high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) UAVs and three more MALE UAVs.

Other than planning, there's been no direct progress on the JUSTAS Project since the 2004 trial.  But JUSTAS has 'pupped' two spin-offs. The first spin-off was the Joint Airborne ISR Capability (JAIC) Project. As an acknowledgement of  the slow pace of  JUSTAS,  JAIC was to be an interim version of JUSTAS Phase 1. As usual, DND already had a favorite – General Atomics' Predator B – and advocated the single-source purchase of  this UAV to the Harper Cabinet. That procurement approach proved a political gaffe and it was promptly rejected by the Government which had recently been stung with criticism over other single-source deals.

The demise of the JAIC Project prompted a fresh approach. This time, DND would attempt to get UAVs directly for the combat mission in Afghanistan by leasing such systems from their manufacturers. This was Project Noctua (or 'Little Owl'). The outcome of the Project Noctua competition was the leasing of  IAI Malat UAVs (as the CU-170 Heron) for use in Kandahar.

With the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan, DND has tried to resurrect the JUSTAS Project once more.  There have been a few changes.  What had been a $500M project is now expected to cost between $1B and $1.5B. Understandably for a project that's moving into its thirteenth year while still being stuck in the planning stage, the schedule for JUSTAS is also getting a bit wonky. Nor is it clear whether Phase 1 and 2 remain part of  JUSTAS plans. The Arctic has gained in emphasis and JUSTAS now demands that UAVs be able to drop search and rescue kits. What changes next is anyone's guess. But the JUSTAS Project will plod on.

Update: May 2014 – According to David Pugliese, the tentative service entry is now 2023.

CASR | BG UAVs | BG JUSTAS | Background | JUSTAS Project Timeline | In Detail