Submarines and things

I haven’t said much about submarines.

victoria-1A few weeks ago I commented on ships, for the Royal Canadian Navy, in general, but I didn’t discuss submarines. I also noted that our purchase of the four Victoria class submarines that we have inservice is, usually, described as a procurement bungle because the government (neither Supply and Services (as they were then) nor DND) did not do adequate “due diligence” when negotiating the contract and when taking delivery of the boats. But, I am assured by people who are “in the know” that they are good boats and very useful to us. I am also assured, again by people who know about these things, that the RCN, like any first world navy, needs submarines.

There are debates amongst experts and others about nuclear vs. air independent propulsion vs. conventional (diesel) submarines … I’m not qualified to enter those discussions.

I saw this, from Boeing, a couple of days ago …

bds_echo_ranger_630x354

… it is an unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV), which, Boeing says, “can operate autonomously for months at a time thanks to a hybrid rechargeable power system” and can fulfil a variety of missions  because it has a “modular payload bay.”

The Boeing Echo Voyager is being described as  “game changing” and reports say that Boeing is “in talks with a number of customers interested in the autonomous vessel, though they won’t yet reveal names” I sincerely hope one of those potential customers is the Government of Canada. General Jonathan Vance, the Chief of the Defence Staff, has explained to a Senate committee why unmanned aerial vehicles are needed by the Canadian Armed Forces; in my opinion, similar and even more persuasive argument apply for UUVs. Canada, especially Defence Research and Development Canada, should be working, now, with Boeing and with Canadian contractors to develop basing facilities and surveillance and weapon packages for these vessels.

At 51′ in length the Boeing UUVs are dwarfed by our Victoria class submarines (230′) but they can be small and capable (and cheap!) because they need no crew and no life support systems.

I said, back in December of last year, that amongst the military capabilities Canada needs to have are a “surveillance and warning system to cover our land mass and, especially, the maritime approaches to it and the airspace over both;” and “military forces to patrol our territory, the maritime approaches to it and the airspace over both.” A UUV like the Boeing Echo Voyager is well suited to such tasks and, being a “vehicle” rather than a fixed sensor, it is also very flexible (multi-role) and easily (and cheaply) adapted to changing circumstances.

I am not suggesting UAVs as replacements for manned aircraft ~ not in my lifetime, anyway, and I am certainly not suggesting that UUVs can, now, replace submarines but both types of unmanned vehicles can and should, very soon, augment our air and submarine fleets.

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