Over six months ago I offered some thoughts on ships and, specifically, the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. I was especially concerned “that there is nowhere near enough money for even 15 of the new surface combatants” that the RCN says it needs (along with eight of the DeWolfe class Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships and two or three Canadian variants of the large Berlin class support ships).
Now, the Halifax Chronicle Herald reports that “Irving Shipbuilding — the prime contractor for the combat package of the National Shipbuilding Strategy and builder of the new Canadian Surface Combatants — will issue the final combined request for proposal (RFP) for a warship design and combat systems before the end of the summer … [and] … 12 prequalified firms, or shortlisted request for proposal respondents — among them industry giants like Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, ThyssenKrupp, Navantia and DCNS — were given the final draft of the massive, 1,500 plus page proposal documents ahead of receiving the final version likely sometime in September. More than 80 suppliers have also been involved in a number of industry engagement meetings that haven’t taken place in the last year … [but] … these massive mulibillion dollar vessels … [which] will be built over 15 years … [and] … are expected to support the Canadain navy until the year 2070.” Sadly, there was not a word in the article about budgets or the number of ships to be built.
My fear, as I said back in February, is that the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy “is a programme to subsidize shipyards so that they can modernize themselves, on the taxpayers’ dime, and then build some warships. The “some” is important because, according to everything I have read, there is not, never really was, enough money for all the ships envisioned.” Notwithstanding my hope that initiatives like Project Resolve might help with some funding problems and my idea that some corvettes (again) might help with the “numbers game,” the fact is that the Canadian Surface Combatants are going to be the mainstay of the RCN for nearly a half century. The government has to get this right. I am reasonably confident that Irving, the prime contractor, can and will select and adapt a good design and I am also sure their yard can build the right ship; what I am not at all sure about is whether there is enough money to build more than, say, seven or eight … one new ship every other year, rather then one new ship every year for 15 years.
My personal opinion is that we need a combat fleet of 10 to twelve Canadian Surface Combatants, six DeWolfe class A/OPS about eight to 10 corvettes and six to eight air independent propulsion (under ice capable) submarines. But that’s in the realm of daydreaming because “it’s 2016” and Sunny Ways, not warships, is the order of the day.