Tag Archives: Canada

Fire damaged submarine returns to Canadian navy after nearly a decade

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HMCS Chicoutimi rests on the syncrolift after being removed from the harbour in Halifax, N.S., Canada on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2006. A newly rebuilt HMCS Chicoutimi is set to rejoin the Canadian navy’s submarine fleet, nearly 10 years after a deadly fire aboard the second-hand warship effectively crippled the program.

A newly rebuilt HMCS Chicoutimi is set to return to Canada’s naval fleet nearly 10 years after a deadly fire aboard the second-hand warship effectively crippled the Canadian navy’s submarine program.

The resurrection of the British-built vessel, which became emblematic of the sorry state of Canadian military equipment in 2004, has the Department of National Defence contemplating for the first time how best to employ its controversial subs.

One internal defence proposal foresees deploying the undersea warships to far-flung oceans, patrolling trouble spots the way the navy’s frigates do today.

Chicoutimi has been fully repaired and upgraded, says the navy’s top commander.

It entered the water in late November after three years of work at Victoria Shipyards Co. Ltd., a return that is about two years behind the navy’s original schedule.

The submarine is in the process of being turned over to the military and the crew is expected to begin sea trial in waters off Esquimalt, B.C. over the next few weeks, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman told The Canadian Press in a recent interview.

“We’re on the cusp of achieving what we laid out,” said Norman, who noted the original goal of the program was to have three of the navy’s four submarines operational at all times.

Chicoutimi will, however, be restricted to shallow-water diving for the foreseeable future, according to a series of defence documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

It’s been a long, excruciating journey since Jean Chretien’s Liberal government announced in 1998 it would buy four surplus diesel-electric boats from the Royal Navy in what was heralded at the time as a great bargain for Canadian taxpayers.

The poor condition of the mothballed submarines — they were rusty, prone to flooding and one had a dented hull — tarnished the reputation of the boats. But it was the fire aboard Chicoutimi in October 2004, which killed Lt. Chris Saunders and sent two other sailors to hospital, that nearly scuttled the program entirely.

A subsequent military board of inquiry found that an open hatch allowed sea water from a rogue wave to wash down the conning tower and inundate poorly insulated high-voltage wires, triggering the fire. Still, the 700-page report blamed no one for the tragedy, which occurred off Ireland during the ship’s voyage to Halifax.

The initial estimate to repair the boat was pegged at $15 million in 2005. It quickly increased to $20 million in 2006, but internal documents suggest the price tag could run to more than $125 million, including removal of all fire-damaged components.

Originally commissioned as HMS Upholder, the ship has spent the bulk of its nearly 28-year existence either in dry-dock or tied up to a wharf.

HMCS Victoria is the Canadian navy’s only fully operational submarine, having completed the test firing of a live torpedo. A third submarine, HMCS Windsor, is operational but has not gone through process of certification to fire its weapons and remains under dive restrictions.

HMCS Corner Brook is currently in dry-dock for life extension and repairs after slamming into the ocean floor off Vancouver Island.

Despite the trials, senior brass have been thinking ahead and want to see the subs play a meaningful role, possibly in extended deployments in waters off the world’s trouble spots in much the same way the Dutch have utilized their fleet.

Former chief of defence staff, general Walt Natynczyk, directed before he retired that the navy develop a deployment plan that would “accelerate the strategic reach of the submarines.”

Since the boats are slow and have limited range, Natynczyk envisioned the navy using a piggyback ship to whisk the submarines to support ongoing international operations, such as anti-piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa.

“The immense effort this has required, and the massive investment it represents, must now begin to yield a visible and defensible return on your investment,” the former top commander wrote in a directive dated March 5, 2012.

Norman says the navy isn’t quite ready for such an operation, but concedes it is a goal.

“We see this as a viable deployment possibility, looking into the near future,” he said.

A number of factors would have to be considered, including the cost of transport, sustaining the submarine once it’s on station, and the climate, since the boats were designed during the Cold War for operations in the frigid North Atlantic.

“Those boats are more comfortable in cold war than warm water,” Norman said.

But it would be in Canada’s national interest to conduct such far-flung patrols in addition to keeping tabs on the country’s coastline, he added.

“If you can pre-position them in whatever area of strategic interest you may have, they become all that more useful.”

Source – The Province

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Canada – Underway on board a Canadian submarine (Video)

No one would argue the Canadian Navy has had an easy time of it with its four Upholder-class diesel-electric submarines. Each one has been plagued with problems since they were acquired from the British Royal Navy a decade ago.

Here’s a nice video of one of them, HMCS CORNER BROOK (ex-HMS URSULA) underway in early June 2011. One of three submarines based on the west coast at Esquimalt, British Columbia, the CORNER BROOK had just transferred from the east coast when this video was shot.

Sadly, the cheerfulness shown in the video didn’t last long. The submarine struck bottom while operating submerged near Vancouver Island in Nootka Sound on June 4, 2011. Despite injuries to two sailors and damage to the submarine, CORNER BROOK was able to return to Esquimalt under her own power. There she remains, awaiting full repairs that are not expected to be completed until at least . . . 2016.

Of the four Upholder-class submarines, only one, HMCS VICTORIA, is operational, although she has yet to be elevated to the fully operational status.

Source – Defence News

Canada – DND pays $1M for submarine technology, now can’t find company

 

DND pays $1M for submarine technology, now can’t find company

HMCS Corner Brook is one of four Victoria-class submarines the navy purchased from Britain.

A European company that was paid $1 million to provide equipment for the Canadian navy’s submarines has taken the money and run.

The Department of National Defence has been trying since 2009 to get the equipment it paid for from Applied Radar and Sonar Technologies GmbH, a German firm.

But the company is no longer registered in Germany and “cannot be contacted,” according to a December 2012 briefing document for senior department staff.

The Citizen has tracked the firm to Izmir, a city in Turkey, but company officials did not respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment.

The company was supposed to deliver a transportable acoustic range to the Royal Canadian Navy. It was supposedly being built at the company’s facilities in Turkey but officials with Public Works and Government Services Canada couldn’t locate that site.

The equipment, designed to support submarine operations, was to have been delivered in 2009.

“Contractor has not delivered on key deliverables and cannot be contacted,” pointed out the briefing note obtained by the Citizen. “Neither (Public Works and Government Services Canada) nor DND has been able to reach the contractor since January 2012.”

Canada signed a deal with Applied Radar and Sonar Technologies in December 2008 for the transportable acoustic range and paid the firm a little more than $1 million out of the total price-tag of $1.3 million. But according to the DND briefing the firm ran into a series of unspecified problems with the equipment.

In June 2012, with the delivery almost three years behind schedule, Public Works requested the company provide evidence as to why the contract should not be terminated. It sent letters to the company’s German office and a Turkish address where the equipment was supposed to be manufactured. But those letters couldn’t be delivered, prompting Public Works to determine that Applied Radar and Sonar Technologies was no longer registered in Germany and there was no record of the firm having a Turkish company.

It is now up to DND to try to recover the $1 million.

DND spokeswoman Tracy Poirier stated in an email that “following a default by the contractor, Public Works and Government Services Canada terminated the contract.”

“DND recently received a legal opinion that it can now engage international collections agencies to recover the money the Government of Canada paid to the company,” she added.

The company, however, is still trying to sell its sonar products to other customers.

The firm’s website lists its capabilities in maritime surveillance, noting that: “Our services do not end after distribution, installation and testing of the equipment. We keep close contact to our clients and can provide an individual after-sales support.”

The site also carries details on the company’s mobile acoustic range. “The Mobile Accoustic (sic) Range is a platform for measurement of radiated noise and sea ambient noise,” states the website. “It is developed and successful (sic) tested on surface ships and submarines.”

“Mobile Accustion (sic) Range is easy to deploy,” the site noted.

DND officials could not answer whether the department had properly checked out the credentials of Applied Radar and Sonar Technologies before awarding it the contract.

Navies use such systems to monitor and verify the noise and magnetic signature of their ships and submarines.

A number of firms produce such equipment and, in the case of the Canadian project, three companies bid.

The equipment was to be used on the west coast to support Victoria-class submarine operations. Instead, the Royal Canadian Navy will have to use U.S. military facilities if it wants that capability, according to the DND documents.

Canada purchased its submarines second-hand from Britain and took delivery of the boats between 2000 and 2004. The fleet, however, has been plagued with a series of technical problems and incidents over the years. Navy officers say the fleet is now proving its worth while critics say the submarines should be scrapped.

Source – The Ottawa Citizen

Canada – Navy submarine damage severe, internal report says

HMCS Corner Brook hit seafloor off British Columbia in 2011

Slamming into the seafloor at 11 km/h damaged one of Canada’s submarines more severely than the navy originally admitted to the public, new documents obtained by CBC show.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s Damage Assessment and Options Analysis report for HMCS Corner Brook tells a story of a submarine suffering “extensive damage” from “tearing and dents” that left a gaping, two-metre hole in the submarine’s bow.

Seawater was “roiling” in the parts of the submarine and two of its torpedo tube doors had been torn off when it rammed the ocean floor off British Columbia two years ago.

The submarine had 60 people aboard, including some of the most experienced and senior submariners in the navy, when it rammed the rocky seafloor while cruising 45 metres below the surface.

Two sailors were slightly injured during the June 4, 2011 collision.The navy’s official board of inquiry blamed Lt.-Cmdr. Paul Sutherland, the sub’s captain, for the collision.

The inquiry was closed to the public and the navy only released a one-page summary of the hearing.

The navy has publicly called the accident a “fender bender” which resulted in no structural damage. But the navy’s internal report tells a much different story.

The damage report obtained by CBC under Access to Information was completed three days after the grounding and contains photographs detailing the damage to the Corner Brook.

While Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, now commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, assured Canadians the damage was not as bad as it looked, the report says “structural state of sub unk.” Unk is navy shorthand for unknown.

“Location of strike likely to have caused shock stress transmission within forward structure,” states the navy’s early damage report.

Norman had denied the damaged extended beyond what could be seen in several photographs obtained by CBC in February 2012.

The photos showed the submarine after it was hauled from the water with a hole in it the size of a ping-pong table.

Safety questioned

“The navy has not been upfront with Canadians about the degree of damage and just how close we came to a truly serious accident. I think the Canadian navy has to come clean across the board with respect to Canada’s Victoria class submarines,” said Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia defence expert who has been critical of the submarine program in the past.

The report said that there are “strong indications” of damage to the main ballast tank that may extend to the pressure hull of the submarine. The pressure hull is a thick, rolled-steel area of the submarine where sailors live and work.

“This accident came very close to claiming the lives of the entire crew,” said Byers, who co-authored a recent report on Canada’s fleet of four second-hand British-built submarines.

The damage to the HMCS Corner Brook was in the area in which sailors are quartered.

The damage to the HMCS Corner Brook was in the area in which sailors are quartered. 

Byers said if the pressure hull is twisted or damaged, it may be impossible for the navy to fix.

“Please bear in mind that the documents you have from the ATI request were created very soon after HMCS Corner Brook ran aground in 2011,” wrote Department of National Defence spokeswoman Tracy Poirier in an email to CBC.

“While I can say that more work has been done since then to look into what damage the submarine incurred, I have not been able to find out any details as to what was learned during these subsequent surveys.”

The navy has said it intends to repair the 2,400-tonne submarine during its scheduled refit period, which is to begin this year and run until 2016. The navy will replace the British torpedo system and other sensors and communications equipment that came with the four Victoria-class submarines Canada bought in 1998.

A similar refit process was just completed on another submarine from the class — HMCS Windsor — and it took five years instead of the planned two.

The cost of the work on the Windsor totalled $209 million and still only one of the sub’s two generators is operational, limiting the distance the sub can go away from land.

The navy has not said how much more it will cost to attempt to repair the collision damage to the 70-metre-long Corner Brook.

“If it turns out not to have worked after an attempt at repairing the vessel then Canadian taxpayers will have poured close a billion dollars into a bottomless pit trying to recover this submarine,” said Byers.

Source – CBC News

Canada – New $531-million submarine contract protects 200 jobs at Esquimalt

A rare site of two Canadian subs sailing together into homeport for the Christmas holidays. Seen leading the pack is the HMCS Cornerbrook with the HMCS Windsor following. The HMCS Cornerbrook and the HMCS Windsor arrived in the early dawn coming along side in Halifax today in Nova Scotia on the 21st of December 2006

Canada

The Harper government is set to announce a five-year, $531-million contract  extension to repair and upgrade Canada’s fleet of four diesel-electric  submarines

OTTAWA — B.C.’s shipbuilding and repair industry will get a shot of good news  Thursday when the Harper government announces a five-year, $531-million contract  extension to repair and upgrade Canada’s fleet of four diesel-electric  submarines, The Vancouver Sun has learned.

The contract, following a similar agreement struck in 2008, will protect  roughly 200 jobs at the department of national defence’s Fleet Maintenance  Facility in Esquimalt, according to a federal official.

Another 200 jobs will be protected at locations elsewhere in Canada, he  said.

“This significant federal investment will support more than 400 high-quality  jobs, improve the long-term sustainability of B.C.’s shipbuilding industry and  provide the best tools for Canada’s sailors,” he said in a prepared  statement.

The contract was won in a competitive bid by Babcock Canada Inc., a  subsidiary of the British multinational firm Babcock International Group  PLC.

Babcock International won the original contract in 2008 after it teamed up  with Weir Canada Inc. of Mississauga, Ont., to create a consortium called the  Canadian Submarine Management Group.

However, Babcock announced in 2011 that CSMG would be renamed Babcock Canada  Inc. after Weir’s share of the joint venture was transferred to Babcock.

The original contract award caused a political flap because Babcock beat out  Irving Shipbuilding, which wanted to keep the repair work in Halifax.

One of the critics was Green party leader Elizabeth May, who at the time was  planning her run against Defence Minister Peter MacKay in his Nova Scotia  riding.

May, who accused the government of an “anti-Atlantic bias,” is now the MP for  the Vancouver Island riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

The original five-year contract in 2008 was worth $370 million over five  years, but if CSMG met performance targets the contract was to be extended over  15 years, for a total value of up to $1.5 billion.

Thursday’s announcement gives a clear indication that Babcock has met those  targets.

The fleet of four Victoria-class diesel-electric submarines has had a rocky  history after the Liberal government made what appeared to be the  bargain-basement purchase of the mothballed subs from the Royal Navy for $750  million in 1998.

It took far longer and was costlier than expected to make the vessels  seaworthy, and in 2004 the HMCS suffered a fire that left one officer dead. In  2011, HMCS Corner Brook ran aground near Vancouver Island during manoeuvres.

There are now two subs, HMCS Victoria and HMCS Windsor, that are fully  operational.

HMCS Chicoutimi is currently being serviced at Esquimalt but is expected to  be ready for sea trials later this year.

The HMCS Corner Brook is also in Esquimalt for both repairs and a refit.

The fleet is “at the highest state of readiness that they’ve ever been,” the  source said.

Source – The Vancouver Sun

Canada’s submarine fleet needs to start from scratch

 

By the time Canada's submarines are ready for duty, they'll be due for retirement.

By the time Canada’s submarines are ready for duty, they’ll be due for retirement.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay blames the Liberals for Canada’s troubled fleet of second-hand Victoria-class submarines. It was the Liberals who purchased the four British-made vessels for the suspiciously low price of $750-million in 1998. Yet it was none other than MacKay himself who, 10 years later, persuaded his Conservative colleagues not to scrap them. It was MacKay who signed taxpayers up for another $1.5-billion worth of refits and repairs, thereby throwing good money after bad.

It was apparent long before 2008 that the submarines were deeply flawed. The diesel engines were designed for railroad locomotives and not the rapid stops and starts required of submarines. There were defects in the torpedo tubes, making it possible for both the inner and outer doors to be open at the same time, even while the subs were submerged. The subs were mothballed in saltwater for four years before Canada bought them, and years more before we took possession. They suffered serious corrosion — the diving depth of HMCS Windsor is now restricted due to rust damage on the hull.

Shortly after Canada took possession, 1,500 litres of saltwater spilled into HMCS Corner Brook because of a malfunctioning Submerged Signal Ejector — a device that is used to deploy decoys while submerged. HMCS Victoria experienced serious problems with its cooling system. And a deadly fire broke out on HMCS Chicoutimi when seawater entering through an open hatch caused an electrical short in wiring that had just one layer of waterproof sealant, instead of the three layers the construction specifications had required. In 2004, the electrical system on Victoria was destroyed when the submarine was hooked up to an on-shore electric supply. The Halifax Chronicle Herald reported that the Navy spent about $200,000 after the accident “to buy old technology that mirrors what the sub’s British builders used” – equipment that one of the Navy’s own “electrical technologists” said “probably goes back to the ‘60s.”

In 2007, Windsor entered a refit that was supposed to take three years but ended up taking six. Documents obtained by the CBC later explained that every system had major problems. Spare parts are also difficult to obtain.

It was in this context that MacKay pushed for the $1.5-billion refit and repair contract, a move rendered all the more perplexing by the fact that, by 2008, the submarines were already between 15-19 years old. This meant that the most one could hope for from the vessels, after their refits, was a single decade of service.

Chicoutimi has been out of the water since the fire in 2004, and will remain in dry dock until at least the end of this year

Which is not very long when you consider that, for the same amount of money, Canada could have procured between 3-4 brand new diesel-electric submarines based on proven designs from France or Germany.

Today, five years after the $1.5-billion contract, MacKay insists the situation is improving. Which is true, if going from horrendous to bad counts as an improvement. Corner Brook was damaged in an accident in 2011 and put out of action until 2012. It is scheduled to return to dry dock for three years in 2014. In December 2012, a defect was discovered in one of Windsor’s two diesel engines, which resulted in the submarine having to operate on just one engine. This put the sub on limited duty. She will be taken out of service later this year so that the engine can be replaced. Chicoutimi has been out of the water since the fire in 2004, and will remain in dry dock until at least the end of this year. Victoria, which emerged from six years in dry dock in 2011, is scheduled to return there for three years in 2016.

According to the Department of National Defence, Canada’s four Victoria-class submarines have accumulated a total of just 1,131 days at sea in the decade since 2003 — about 30 days per submarine per year. It’s time to stop throwing good money after bad. If Canada wants to maintain this capability, we need to start from scratch.

Source – National Post

Canadian submarine fleet’s future could be at risk

No mention of sub replacements in $33B National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, report says

The HMCS Chicoutimi sits aboard the heavy lift ship Tern in Halifax harbour on April 6, 2009. The vessel was transported to Victoria for a refit.The HMCS Chicoutimi sits aboard the heavy lift ship Tern in Halifax harbour on April 6, 2009. The vessel was transported to Victoria for a refit. (CBC)

Stealth and silence are hallmarks of the Royal Canadian Navy’s submarine fleet but those qualities may also apply to the federal government’s vision for the beleaguered force, says a new report released Tuesday on the future of the navy’s sub squadron.

The report, titled “That Sinking Feeling” said there are indications that the future of submarines in the navy may be as shaky as the spotty service record of the second-hand Royal Canadian Navy subs.

A hint of looming doom for the submarine fleet could be that there is no mention of replacements in the much-touted National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), said the report, which is produced by the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“Nowhere in the plan is there any mention of one particular, significant, readily identifiable and probably imminent procurement — namely, the replacement of Canada’s troubled Victoria-class submarines,” the report said.

The report is co-authored by Stewart Webb, a researcher with the Rideau Institute, and Professor Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia defence expert.

Byers has been critical of both the Harper government and Canada’s military procurement strategy in the past. In 2008, Byers sought the New Democratic Party nomination for the federal riding of Vancouver Centre but lost to Liberal incumbent Hedy Fry.

The government plans on spending $33 billion over the next three decades replacing the ships of Canada’s navy.

New supply and logistics ships, a fleet of Arctic patrol vessels and up to 15 replacements for the navy’s front-line frigates and destroyers are planned. But submarines, which the navy claims are vital to Canada’s defence, do not surface in the ambitious warship construction program.

“Canada’s Victoria-class submarines may have as little as one decade of remaining service-life, and too many mistakes have been made with submarine procurement in the past,” the report said.

Victoria-class fiasco

The report chronicles the history of Canada’s dabbling with submarines — from the failed attempt to build up to a dozen powerful nuclear submarines in the late 1980s to the decision to buy four mothballed British submarines that had to be retro-fitted around an American-supplied torpedo.

By the time Canada decided to buy the four bargain-priced submarines, the oldest had spent a total of nine years languishing in salt water without a crew.

“Unfortunately, the apparent bargain quickly became a costly fiasco,” states the report.

The report provides a scathing account of the “inferior vessels” since the first sub, HMCS Victoria, entered service in the Canadian navy in 2000.

The time all the submarines have spent at sea is a telling number.

While in service with the British navy for four years, the subs spent 1,077 days at sea. But after 13 years in service with the Canadian navy, the boats have spent only 783 days patrolling, the report said.

One sailor was killed and several others injured because of a fire aboard the submarine HMCS Chicoutimi and there have been constant, and later confirmed, reports of cracked valves, a dented hull, shoddy electrical systems, rusted parts and cost overruns.

CBC reported last month that HMCS Windsor’s planned two-year refit actually lasted five years and cost $209 million.

After the submarine was relaunched in Halifax in the fall of 2012 it was discovered that one of the vessel’s two generators didn’t work, resulting in the submarine being restricted to near-home waters until the multi-million generator can be replaced. That replacement might not happen for years, confirmed the navy.

The federal government signed a controversial $1.5 billion contract in 2008 with the Canadian subsidiary of a British-based company to provide “in-service support” for the submarines.

But Tuesday’s report said that money could have funded a new fleet of state-of-the art submarines.

“The Harper government could have procured three to four brand new diesel-electric submarines, based on proven designs from France, Germany, or Sweden,” states the report.

Future plans sketchy

The report challenges Canadians to decide whether the navy needs submarines or not but it also ponders whether the Harper government is quietly planning to procure new submarines.

Military brass have made it clear that submarines are front and centre in its plans for Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic defence. But the government has not been so forthright.

“There is clearly a desire within [the Department of National Defence] and the Canadian Armed Forces for the procurement of new submarines. But the absence of submarines from the NSPS remains unexplained,” write the authors.

The report suggests there may be three possible scenarios for Canada’s submarine future: a possible secret plan for the Victoria class replacement; a possible secret plan to terminate Canada’s sub capability; or there is no plan to either keep or replace the current fleet.

“Condemning Canada’s submarine program to death through neglect and obsolescence rather than design,” the report said.

Other countries have decided to scrap submarine capabilities altogether.

The Danish navy pulled the plug on its sub fleet, and the possibility of new submarines in 2004 after a national debate.

Instead of subs, the Danes opted to build a small but mighty fleet of surface ships to patrol in both home and international waters.

But many other countries have decided to invest in submarines as the ideal way to deny other nations access to their waters.

China, India, Iran, Chile, Malaysia and Israel are all building or buying new fleets of advanced submarines.

The report said there are several submarine designs Canada might consider to replace the aging but low mileage Victoria class submarines.

The German-built U-214 class has the ability to remain underwater for weeks at time because of new air-independent technology.

Canada’s submarines must surface, or send mast to the surface, several times a day in order to charge batteries.

New submarines like the French Scorpene or Swedish Gotland would allow Canada to patrol under the ice in the Arctic and do so with just 25 sailors — half the crew needed for the Victoria class.

But if history is any guide, it takes Canada 15 to 20 years to design and build a new class of complex warships.

“The best-before date of Canada’s Victoria-class is approaching, perhaps as soon as 2023,” warns the report.

Cmdr. Hubert Genest, with the navy’s public affairs office, told CBC News that the navy plans to operate the Victoria-class submarines until the late 2020s, saying that the navy has “always said that the Victoria-class submarines was the bridge to the next generation of submarines for Canada.”

Source – CBC News