Tag Archives: Victoria class

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


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

Canada – Submarine air quality under the microscope

The Canadian Maritime Force has four Victoria class diesel-electric submarines, formerly Upholder Class submarines of the UK Royal Navy.

The Canadian Maritime Force has four Victoria class diesel-electric submarines, formerly Upholder Class submarines of the UK Royal Navy.

OTTAWA – Navy engineers have decided not to install a central monitoring system to track air quality on board Canada’s oft-maligned submarine fleet, internal National Defence documents say.

It’s a move that’s being questioned by some former submariners.

The system was part of the military’s 13-year struggle to bring the four British-built second-hand boats in line with North American standards and convert certain fixtures for Canadian use.

Keeping the right balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide is crucial on board the submarines, which are required to remain submerged for extended periods of time, making air quality a particular concern for technicians.

In 2002, engineers initially proposed installing a ship-wide atmospheric monitoring system, but a series of internal documents show that more than 10 years later, the plan has been abandoned.

“Such a system is unlikely to be practical, requiring installation during the (extended deep work period),” said a briefing note to the navy’s director of maritime force development on Oct. 19, 2011.

Including the system raised the potential of derailing the navy’s plan to bring the submarines into full operational service.

The briefing, obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws, estimated installing the system would have pushed the initial roll-out of the boats to 2018 with the last touches — known as final operating capability — not achievable until 2025.

By that time, the submarines would be near the end of their lifespan.

“The current intent is to consider portable devices, which are expected to address the requirement in a reasonable amount of time and cost less than $5 million,” said the note, which evaluated the entire submarine life support project.

A navy spokesman confirmed the “fixes” to the air monitoring system are being implemented through a minor capital project and that there is no health and safety concern.

“The air standard on board meets established standards,” Navy Lt. Mark Fifield said in a recent email.

Former submarine captain Ray Hunt said he’s startled by the decision, because portable monitors were something the navy relied upon in its now-retired Oberon class submarines.

“I’m surprised at this day in age that we don’t have a more modern system,” said Hunt, who commanded three submarines during his 27-year naval career, including HMCS Okanagan. He also commanded the country’s entire submarine squadron in the 1980s.

He said carbon dioxide poisoning is an ever-present threat that can leave sailors dizzy and sick.

A modern air filtration system was supposed to be one of the major advantages of upgrading to the Victoria class, Hunt added.

But a defence analyst said the navy would not be taking short cuts on safety, especially in the wake of a fatal fire aboard HMCS Chicoutimi in 2004.

Eric Lerhe, a former commodore, said it was curious that engineers took more than a decade to figure out the proposal was impractical, but he hailed as laudable the goal of seeking the very best air quality standard.

It’s been 14 years since the purchase of the submarines was first announced, and the pressure to get them fully operational has been enormous, said Lerhe, who served on the defence planning team that convinced the Liberal government of Jean Chretien to buy the boats.

“The navy very clearly wants to demonstrate these boats are operationally capable,” Lerhe said.

HMCS Victoria was declared fully operational when it fired its first torpedoes and sank a decommissioned US Navy cargo ship in an exercise last summer.

Last fall, HMCS Windsor passed a critical dive test on the road to being declared completely ready. Both the Chicoutimi and HMCS Corner Brook remain in extended maintenance.

Almost a year ago, the head of the navy estimated that once fully underway, Canada could the sail the existing submarine fleet until 2030. But internal briefing documents show navy planners started laying the groundwork for their replacement last year with a study on what kind of boats and technology would be needed after 2020.

Source – Metro News