GDMS Canada: Provider of public safety systems

General Dynamics Mission Systems Canada is one of Canada’s largest and most established defence systems integrators. It offers a portfolio of mission-critical solutions for land, air and maritime applications that are supported by strong system engineering experience, ongoing investment in research and development and collaboration with commercial and military systems industry leaders. 

Read how GDMS Canada used CCC’s government to government (G2G) contracts to win a major public safety opportunity with the Government of Panama and a recent contract with the Portuguese Air Force.

Logo for General Dynamics Mission Canada

About General Dynamics Mission Systems  

General Dynamics Missions Systems (GDMS) Canada began its long history in the defence sector on August 31, 1948, as Computing Devices of Canada. The company was founded by three entrepreneurs to support the rebuilding of Canada’s military after the Second World War.  

The company got its start by manufacturing the Position and Homing Indicator (PHI), a device developed at the National Research Council that kept track of an aircraft’s position and indicated its return route to base. Another project of significance in its early days was the Kicksorter, a digital-pulse counter designed for the Atomic Energy of Canada Laboratories (AECL). If the Kicksorter had been slightly modified to do simple arithmetic operations, it would have been a rudimentary computer.  

Over the years, GDMS grew into one of Canada’s largest and most established defence systems integrator with the capacity to take on multi-year projects of strategic national significance, scope and scale. It also developed a portfolio of mission-critical solutions for land, air and maritime applications that are supported by strong system engineering experience, ongoing investment in research and development and collaboration with commercial and military systems industry leaders. 

Today the company has grown to more than 2,200 employees working in facilities across Canada. 

CityShieldSource: General Dynamics Canada (YouTube)

Two men looking at screens mounted on walls

CityShieldSource: General Dynamics Canada (YouTube)

Two men looking at screens mounted on walls

CityShieldSource: General Dynamics Canada (YouTube)

First responders with walkie talkies with General Dynamics logo in background

CityShieldSource: General Dynamics Canada (YouTube)

Increasing public safety in Panama

In 2018, when the government of Panama set out to improve public safety, it knew it would be looking beyond its borders for solutions. Some officials were leery: their past experience of international contracting hadn’t been ideal. While Canada’s General Dynamics Mission Systems (GDMS) had the right technology and training package to meet Panama’s needs, the country needed reassurance the deal would be done right. That’s exactly what CCC’s G2G contracting approach provided.


 Making public safety a priority

Panama’s legacy public safety systems had fallen out of step with the country’s requirements. The Ministry of Security needed a better way to monitor unfolding situations and accelerate the dispatch of first responders. At the same time, it wanted a solution that would improve performance without increasing costs.

The CitySHIELD solution from General Dynamics Mission Systems Canada met all of Panama’s technical criteria, providing computer-assisted dispatch, real-time officer location, and instant data transfer to identify licence plates, faces and other information.

That said, the Panamanian government had some unease, according to CCC Business Development Manager Mathieu Lacroix.

“Government officials were adamant that this next deal had to be transparent and delivered to the letter due to the importance of the project to the internal security of Panama. The risk of a failed tender was sufficient to make the case for not tendering the project competitively per their typical procurement regulations.”

CCC’s government to government (G2G) contracting approach — which would allow Panama to sign a contract directly with the Government of Canada for GDMS’s solution — had the potential to assuage those concerns. 


A team effort

The CCC worked closely with Canada’s Ambassador to Panama at the time, Anna-Karine Asselin, and with Senior Trade Commissioner Michael Redenbach to advance the project. Both were extremely supportive and helped Panamanian officials and decision-makers understand how the G2G contracting approach worked and what kinds of protections it would afford them.

Lacroix notes that even the U.S. Ambassador was a supporter of the deal, seeing the advantage of having a reputable Canadian firm meeting the Panamanian government’s needs for enhancing public security.

“As part of the G2G contract we signed, we worked out a Framework Cooperation Agreement with the Panama Ministry of Security,” Lacroix explains. “That meant GDMS Canada could deliver on this contract for Panama without having to register as a local company. This streamlined the related tax administration for the Canadian company.”


Delivery underway – and a door is opened

With the paperwork signed, and with CCC overseeing every step of delivery, GDMS Canada was able to deliver the $25 million contract.

Panama’s government was so pleased with the agreement and CCC’s approach — and by the assurance of being able to deal directly with the Government of Canada — that it formalized the Framework Cooperation Agreement into law. That means the Ministry of Security can work with CCC on an ongoing basis to sole-source future security-related purchases from Canada.

Lacroix says this is great news not only for GDMS Canada but also for other Canadian exporters in what has historically been a challenging market.

“We’re now known in the country,” he says. “It’s opened the door for other exporters to look in and explore opportunities. And of course, we at CCC, are here to help in any way we can.”

Follow-up G2G contract

In 2019, CCC and GDMS were formally selected to proceed with a second public safety and security program in Panama to implement a facial recognition and video management system. The systems were to be installed in two terminals at the Tocumen International Airport and at the Paso Canoas border crossing between Panama and Costa Rica.

This second contract followed the requirements identified in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Governments of Panama and Canada prior to the first contract. 

The project was to be the largest and most advanced surveillance-based facial recognition system in Latin America, and would include monitoring and control centers, mobile application licenses for user authorities, a modern video management system, high-resolution IP cameras, and three years of technical support and maintenance.

G2G contract with Portuguese Air Force

In 2022, GDMS won a $24 million contract with the Portuguese Air Force to modernize its fleet of P-3C aircraft to support Maritime patrol and reconnaissance activities. 

This was secured through a government-to-government (G2G) contract between CCC and the Portuguese Air Force. G2G contracts are part of CCC’s International Prime Contractor service that brings qualified Canadian companies to foreign government buyers.

General Dynamics will provide equipment and technology to upgrade the communications and mission electronics. The upgrades to Portugal’s P3-C fleet are modeled on modernizations that General Dynamics provides to the  Royal Canadian Air Force. The Mission Management System offered to Portugal now comprises over 50 installations worldwide on both Maritime Patrol Aircraft and Maritime Patrol Helicopters.

Portugal is a member of NATO. The upgrades will allow the Portuguese Air Force, as a NATO member, to maintain the capabilities required to contribute to new and existing NATO activities. In addition to maritime patrol and reconnaissance activities, Portugal’s air force also provides air policing, air transport, search and rescue, and medical evacuations.

“CCC is proud to simplify and expedite the acquisitions of Canadian expertise and technology by Portugal – a NATO ally and important trading partner,”

Colonel Jorge Nunes, Head of the Administrative and Financial Service Right: Mathieu Lacroix, Account Director, CCC signing agreement

Source: Canadian Commercial Corporation

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About CCC

The Canadian Commercial Corporation is a federal crown corporation and is only the Canadian agency that offers commercial advocacy, collaborative project development, and international contracting expertise to help Canadian businesses secure contracts with foreign governments at the national, state, and municipal level.


Our International Prime Contractor is a fee-based program where we sign government to government (G2G) contracts with foreign government buyers for the sale of Canadian solutions. Our U.S. DoD Prime Contractor program is a free program funded by the Government of Canada and supported by the U.S. Government, to help Canadians sell their products, services and solutions to the U.S. military. To learn more about CCC and how we can help you, contact us.

Last updated: October 2022

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