Advantages and Disadvantages of Replacing Canada’s Aged Submarine Fleet


The Royal Canadian Navy is actively exploring ways to replace its dilapidated submarine fleet with one that can pose difficult logistics and financial challenges.

Earlier this month, defense officials told Canadian media that a team had been created to inform the government of potential alternative classes of patrol submarines.

David Perry, vice president and senior analyst at the Canada Global Affairs Institute, believes that Canada considered replacing its fleet “old days,” but said it wasn’t easy.

“Building a submarine is an engineering challenge that requires a specialized skill set that becomes even more difficult in addition to normal shipbuilding,” Perry said in an interview.

“I don’t think the Government of Canada currently has the skillsets, people, and expertise to make that kind of acquisition. [should access this] Hire someone on the market or try to get it through consultants or third party advice or contracts. “

Canada’s current fleet consists of four Victoria-class submarines purchased second-hand from the United Kingdom in 1998 for $ 750 million. The fleet has spent more time repairing than at sea.

James Ferguson, Deputy Director of the Center for Defense and Security Research at the University of Manitoba, recommends that Canada phase out its current submarine fleet and not replace it. He also warned against the 1998 purchase.

“I told military personnel this was the worst decision they could ever make. This goes south. It’s going to get worse. It’s a waste of money. … And, of course, these four submarines suffered a series of disasters, ”Ferguson said in an interview.

Babcock Canada has been undertaking maintenance and repair of the submarine fleet since 2008. According to a Pentagon report, the company damaged one of HMCS Corner Brook’s major ballast tanks in March 2020 and “caused it to inadvertently overpressure the tank.” Burst. Submarines cost $ 300 million annually to maintain.

Liberal Government 2017 “Strong, safe and engagedThe defense policy document states that the current submarine is “Undergoing gradual modernization Guarantees continuous effectiveness in the mid-2020s and until the mid-2030s. However, this document did not mention a new generation of submarines.

Ferguson sees it as a vanity project to procure a new set of submarines.

“The Navy wants to look in the mirror and say,’We’re on the surface, above the surface, below the surface, so we’re the real Navy. In a way, that’s ego,” he said. It was.

“Canada doesn’t have the ability to design submarines. It doesn’t have the production capacity to build submarines. The industry may lick that chop, and others ah, we get this money. You might think, but … the idea of ​​setting up a new design facility for building a submarine and a production facility for building a submarine from the square is just waiting for a disaster. “

Despite the challenges, Ferguson expects to prioritize building at home.

“We offer four or six, but not many, but we can’t really enjoy the benefits of economies of scale and the learning curve of production, which means that all costs are high. And This facility will be closed. It will also be a large white elephant. Why don’t we learn from it? “

Perry agrees that it is better to buy than to build.

“In Canada, we tend to adopt pristine designs and start making many changes to them. The more we do that, the more complicated it becomes, so if we can minimize it, we can succeed. You can maximize your sex. “

Australia has been working for over a decade to purchase 12 French-designed submarines.Costs have skyrocketed $ 80 billion— Almost twice the original estimate.

“Submarines can basically protect a large number of bodies of water. [nations] You need to be aware of the fact that it may be underwater and they may not be able to see it. So it has a deterrent effect on protecting your own territory, “Perry said.

Depending on how equipped, the submarine can complement the warship with attacks on other submarines and ships, launch missiles at shore targets, sneak special forces into the shore, and perform reconnaissance. I will.

Allies of Canada and NATO are working on what is called the Fourth Battle of the Atlantic Ocean. The three conflicts so far have been two World Wars and the Cold War. The resurrected Russia has rebuilt its submarine fleet and conducted extensive exercises in the North Atlantic, increasing the need for anti-submarine warfare capabilities in Western countries.

“Other countries, especially Asia, are building a lot of these things,” Perry said. “And that’s an important threat that the Navy must be able to defend. Having it yourself will improve your anti-submarine warfare skills.”