Tag Archives: HMCS Windsor

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

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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

Canada – Submarine HMCS Windsor hobbled after $209M refit

HMCS Windsor

HMCS Windsor is on restricted duties because it has a broken generator.

Setback leaves Royal Canadian Navy with just one fully operational sub

CBC News has learned there is more trouble for Canada’s fleet of used British submarines.

The Royal Canadian Navy has confirmed that HMCS Windsor – fresh from a $209 million refit – is unable to perform as expected because of a broken mission-critical diesel generator.

“We have restricted her in range of operations and her endurance,” Captain Luc Cassivi, director of Canada’s submarine force told CBC in an interview.

That means that the Windsor will only be able to operate in Canadian coastal waters until the diesel generator – a huge 16 cylinder engine – is removed from the submarine and replaced.

The Windsor has a second diesel generator which is still working. The diesel generators are used to charge the batteries that allow the submarine to operate under water.

Restrictions in place

A source has told CBC that the submarine’s diving depth is severely restricted and the navy has been forced to withdraw the sub from planned exercises off the southern U.S. coast.

Capt. Cassivi said he is unable to provide exact details of the restrictions because they are “classified and linked to operational capabilities,” but he denies that any exercises have been cancelled.

“It’s an unexpected defect, and that is why we are going through the investigative process,” said Capt. Cassivi.

The Halifax–based Windsor went back in the water in April, 2012 after a five-year refit designed to bring the submarine up to Canadian standards. The refit was three years behind schedule and until now, the navy has refused to say exactly how much it cost.

Capt. Cassivi confirmed to CBC that the Windsor’s five-year refit totalled $209 million. The cost of removing and replacing the diesel generator is not included in the refit price.

“We have a plan for rectification as soon as the parts are available,” said Capt. Cassivi.

The submarine should be hauled out of the water in Halifax in late summer and it could take a “few months” to replace the engine, he said.

One operational submarine

Canada purchased the four Victoria-class submarines in 1998 after the British navy declared them surplus. At $750 million, the deal was hailed as a bargain, and at a price far less than buying new submarines.

HMCS Victoria completed its refit last year at about the same $209 million cost as the Windsor, said Capt. Cassivi.

HMCS Chicoutimi’s refit is more complicated and expensive because of damage done to the submarine by a fire that killed one sailor on the boat’s first voyage under a Canadian flag. The Chicoutimi has been sidelined ever since the 2004 fire but may become operational by the end of the year.

Also, the refit to HMCS Corner Brook is expected to exceed the $200 million-plus price tag because of damage done to the sub’s bow when it slammed into the seafloor off British Columbia. The Corner Brook has not gone to sea since its grounding in June 2011.

The unexpected repairs to the Windsor and the resulting restrictions means that the navy has only one fully operational submarine in service. The west coast-based HMCS Victoria – which was discovered to have a large dent in its hull after delivery – is the only submarine capable of firing torpedoes, unrestricted diving and movement.

Source – CBS News

Canada – Subs headed back under water

Ill-fated Chicoutimi to be operational by year-end

The naval submarine HMCS Chicoutimi , shown here in 2009 prior to being hauled to the west coast via the Panama Canal, is undergoing extensive work. Despite a tragic past that saw a Halifax naval officer die in a fire, the Defence Department says a refit in Victoria, B.C., will have the sub ready for operation later this year.(TED PRITCHARD/Staff)

The naval submarine HMCS Chicoutimi , shown here in 2009 prior to being hauled to the west coast via the Panama Canal, is undergoing extensive work. Despite a tragic past that saw a Halifax naval officer die in a fire, the Defence Department says a refit in Victoria, B.C., will have the sub ready for operation later this year.

OTTAWA — Three of Canada’s four Victoria-class, diesel-electric submarines are to be operational by the end of the year.

But there are still questions about whether Canada still has the personnel to handle a submarine fleet, and if the subs are even worth fixing.

HMCS Victoria, which has been docked since 2005, was declared operational last year on the West Coast after sinking a decommissioned United States navy ship in a live torpedo test.

HMCS Windsor, docked since 2007, has already started live tests in Halifax Harbour. Last November, it completed a live diving exercise in the harbour, known as a camber dive. It made its first run out to sea in December.

HMCS Chicoutimi, on which a navy officer died after it caught fire during its 2004 maiden voyage, is also undergoing extensive work. Despite its tragic past, the Defence Department says the refit in Victoria, B.C., will have it ready for operation later this year.

“What that is is really heavy maintenance on more than 200 systems,” said department spokeswoman Jocelyn Sweet. “So absolutely everything gets looked at and either replaced or fixed or repaired or overhauled.”

With three of the four subs operational, the Defence Department will consider it at a “steady state” of operation.

The fourth submarine, HMCS Corner Brook, ran aground in a test last year. It will undergo repairs until 2016.

But some analysts say it’s a waste of money to repair the submarines, which were bought second-hand from the British navy for $750 million in 1998.

Since they started sailing in 2003, the subs have been at sea for a combined 1,083 days. That means the sticker price alone works out to almost $700,000 per day.

“These things aren’t submarines, they’re lemons,” said Steven Staples, president of the Rideau Institute, a defence and foreign policy think-tank in Ottawa.

Staples said the submarines will never live up to their billing, which is why the British government originally intended to mothball them. He said the submarines are not needed for defence and are in fact sucking resources from more valuable projects.

“The first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is you stop digging,” he said.

The Defence Department says the subs will be used for various activities, including patrols, intelligence gathering and acting as a deterrent.

While the vessels might work soon, some wonder if Canada still has the staffing capacity to run three submarines after years of very limited testing ability.

In November 2011, Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, said the number of submariners who are active and ready had fallen to 80 from 300. An internal report in early 2012 raised concerns about the navy’s ability to train enough officers in time.

In April, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the navy had 278 submariners who were working within the program, with 60 more on the way.

Source – Herald News