Ships (2) – Corvettes

I offered some thoughts on ships about six weeks ago, suggesting that in addition to (smaller than desired quantities of) the new, big, Canadian Surface Combatants and the (bigger) Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, the Navy might want to buy some smaller, and, yes, less capable, but cheaper “corvettes” for a wide range of duties in the fleet.

Today I saw a public relation blurb from the Royal Canadian Navy saying that four ships are participating in Operation CARIBBE this spring: “HMC Ships Edmonton and Saskatoon are the second pair of several Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) ships that will participate on Operation Caribbe 2016. Before them, HMCS Moncton and HMCS Summerside headed for Op Caribbe on January 27.

Operation CARIBBE
Following a training exercise in preparation for Operation CARIBBE, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) SASKATOON, HMCS EDMONTON and the United States Coast Guard Ship HADDOCK sail off the coast of San Diego, U.S.A on February 26, 2016. OP Caribbe

That’s four of the little Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels out on operations, showing the flag and doing what the RCN needs to be doing. The “little ships” have become the workhorses of the fleet because, when times are (financially) tough, they can do a pretty good job, a good enough job, at a great deal less cost that would be incurred if we sent two or three or four frigates down to the Caribbean. Smaller, less capable  ships make good operational sense. But they are the only class of warships not scheduled for replacement.

My sense, based only on rumour, is that the admirals want a full fleet of big, sophisticated, very capable, flexible warships ~ and who can blame them? But can we afford eight of the Harry DeWold class Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) and 15 of the new Canadian Surface Combatants (CSC)? Or should the Navy be planning, now, for, say only four of the AOPSs and, perhaps, only ten of the CSCs and then plan for another ten smaller, less costly to buy and operate  (and less capable) “corvettes?”

Corvettes range in size (and cost) from the small (650 ton, 240′ long, 30+ knot speed) Swedish Visby class ships …


… up through the larger (1,700 ton, 295′ long, 25+ knot speed) Dutch Sigma class corvettes …


… all the way up to the large (3,000+ ton, 415′ long, 40+ knot speed) US Independence class ships:


Somewhere in that range we, Canadians, should be able to find a lower cost (than either the AOPS or the CSC) and capable “enough” corvette which will allow us to have a surface combatant fleet of 20+ warships … about the minimum needed by the country with the longest coastline in the world.

Notwithstanding what the Trudeau government’s defence review decides ~ and I, like most observers, believe it will look to cut defence spending ~ we must have a Navy and it must be one that the government of the day is willing to fund and that may have to mean fewer destroyer/frigates and more corvettes.

By Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.


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