There is some encouraging news out of the Trudeau regime … the other day Judy Foote, Minister of Public Services and Procurement,and John McKay, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, representing Harjit Sajjan, announced a modified approach aimed at delivering the Canadian Surface Combatant (the replacement for our 16 destroyers and frigates built in the 1970s and ’80s) to the Royal Canadian Navy up to two years sooner than originally planned. Unfortunately Minister Foote refuses to commit to a number of ships.
As mentioned, above, we had 16 major surface combatants: four Tribal class destroyers and 12 Halifax class frigates. The changes in warship design, generation by generation, are not as radical in stretching the performance envelope as we see in aircraft. None of speed, range, endurance, weapon load or crew size change as dramatically … a modern coastal patrol vessel is not that far removed in terms of performance from a World War II corvette, even though it is (relatively) cheaper to build and operate, is much more reliable, has a much smaller crew and much better sensors. It is nothing like the difference between, say, a World War II Lancaster bomber and a modern American B2 bomber. There will be some (four? six? (eight were planned)) DeWolf class Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels but they will be of a quite different type from a major, ocean going warship, and they represent a new capability ~ much needed but not, for example, they are not designed for securing and protecting the sea lines of communications to/from some of our major trading partners or exercising freedom of navigation patrols in far off theatres. The DeWolf class ships will have their hands full ~ and we will, I am certain, wish we had more and that they were more ‘ice capable’ ~ in the not too distant future because Russia is moving back into the Arctic … Defence News reports that “Russia on Friday floated a new icebreaker for its navy, the first in about 45 years, in a further sign of Moscow’s growing military focus on the Arctic … [and] … Built at the Admiralty Shipyards in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city and home to its Baltic fleet, the Ilya Muromets is the first of a series of icebreakers ordered by the defense ministry in recent years.“
The article goes on to say that “The Ilya Muromets is an 85-meter (280-feet) long electric-diesel powered icebreaker with a deadweight of 6,000 tons and is designed to help the deployment of the navy in icy conditions as well as escort or tow other ships … It can cut through ice of up to one meter thick and travel the entire 5,600 kilometer (3,500 mile) length of the Northern Passage, according to the defense ministry.” This makes them similar to our planned DeWolf class which displace 6,500 tons, are 103 m (340′) long and have a range in excess of 6,000 miles.
This brings up the question: where is the John G Diefenbaker?
According to recent reports, the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker (which will displace 23,000+ tons, will be 150+ m/490+’ long and will have a range and endurance measured in months,not weeks) will not be in the water until 2022 and, at $1.3 Billion, she is likely to be the only one for a while, even though the other Coast Guard icebreakers, Louis St. Laurent, the Terry Fox, Admundsen, Des Groseilliers, Henry Larsen and Pierre Radisson were all built in the 1980s and are approaching the end of their useful service lives, even after refits and life extension projects. We actually need, in my opinion, two or three of that class of icebreaker ($3 to 4+ Billion) and two or three of another, even larger, more capable, and more expensive class, plus a few coastal icebreakers. My guess is:
- Four to six High Arctic (Polar class) Coast Guard icebreakers;
- Four to Coast Guard six coastal icebreakers to keep Souther Canadian seaports open year round;
- Navy Six DeWolf class patrol ships, which are often described as “slush breakers” when their ice-capability is discussed; and
- At least one Arctic port (Nanisivic).
That’s just to assert and enforce our sovereignty in the Arctic which, thanks to some combination of climate change and ship building technology, may become a sea lane or a resource extraction region.