Of course it’s not necessary

There’s a brief report, by David Puliese, again,  in the Ottawa Citizen (it’s nice to have a couple of defence specialists in the media) that says that “Conservative leader Andrew Scheer questioned the Liberal government why it was not moving ahead with having Davie provide a second supply ship – the Obelix – to the navy. Scheer said the navy needed the second ship. “The Prime Minister has to stop playing political games and before Christmas should award that contract to Davie,” he told the Commons. “What’s he waiting for?” … [but, predictably, Prime Minister] … Trudeau accused Scheer of playing “petty politics” … [and then the prime minster said] … “The armed forces did an assessment,” Trudeau explained. “They don’t need the Obelix and for him to suggest that we should buy it anyway is pure base politics, the worst politics. We make our decisions based on facts. We recognize the quality of work done by Davie shipyard and we do want them to get good jobs but we are not going to make up work for political reasons.”

Well, of course the Trudeau regime is not going to make up things for political reasons … they didn’t make up the “capability gap” out of thin air just to rationalize a backroom deal they had done with Boeing to equip the Royal Canadian Air Force with Super Hornet aircraft without having to go through all the fuss and bother of a competition, did they? But, as I said, “Boeing kicked the props out from under that plan when it launched an ‘unfair trade practices’ action against Bombardier.

I was still in uniform when the Royal Canadian Navy, in a fully vetted and approved policy paper, said they needed, along with 25± ‘major surface combatants’ (destroyers or frigates) and a few submarines, four replenishment vessels, called AORs (Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment) or, more commonly just tankers.

The justification for four ships was pretty simple:

  • Warships are big, complex things ~ a system of systems ~ and they require regular and often lengthy periods “alongside” for maintenance plus, of course, a lot of things can go wrong without much warning causing a ship to be ‘hors de combat‘ so to say; and
  • Governments have a habit of being caught by surprise when international crises occur and the first force they usually deploy is the Navy, and the Navy is usually required to send, on pretty short notice, a task group of, say, three or four ships and they need an AOR ~ if you have only one on each coast and it’s “in the shop” (Fleet Maintenance Unit) for repairs that will take some weeks, well …

Previously, the Conservative government said “well, yes, OK, we see that, but there is only enough money for three and the Navy, as it must, said, “Aye aye, Sir” and got along with three. The Chrétien Liberals follow suit and we got along with three for quite a few years, including during Gulf War I in 1990/91, and, based on all that, I’m pretty sure the Navy did tell the Trudeau government that three would do …

So Justin Trudeau is not lying … someone wearing a uniform did say, “Aye aye, Sir! Three 38136115_2089242947959680_8759410063015149568_ois just enough,” but they said it with their fingers crossed behind their backs. He, therefore, does not need to give Davie a contract to refurbish another ship, à la Project Resolve. He’s not lying, but he is misleading parliament and the Canadian people … Canada has three oceans; we need a three ocean Navy and on two of those oceans we need to be able to deploy task groups on jss_concept_-_oct_2016relatively short notice. A task group of three or four warships needs an AOR for support and we, therefore, need two AORs on each coast and it would make economic sense to have one of the new AORs that will, sometime, be built by Seaspan in Vancouver and one of the Asterix type. But, of course, Project Resolve was a Conservative initiative and no matter how much good sense it still makes it cannot be allowed to happen on Justin Trudeau’s watch … Canadians need to end his “watch” in 2019, and consign him and his (or Gerald Butts’) version of the Liberals to the political rubbish heap where they belong.

3 thoughts on “Of course it’s not necessary

  1. Canadian military procurement can usually be described not as “having what we need to get the job done”, but as ” needing to get the job done with what we have”. The issue of a second temporary supply ship named Obelix is in the news again. With a Federal election on the horizon the Chantier Davie shipyard will do their utmost to keep it that way. With the early and unexpected retirement of the Protecteur Class supply ships the acquisition of the first Asterix supply ship was necessary and timely.

    Does the Canadian Navy need a second temporary supply ship at this point in time. Not with the same urgency as the acquisition of the Asterix. Chantier Davie would have us believe that the Canadian Navy definitely requires the second ship. The shipyard has a lot to gain, or lose, with the outcome of this decision. Davie will have the propaganda machine in overdrive leading up to the next Federal election. The current Federal Government does not want to spend anymore on the military than absolutely necessary from now until the next Federal election. They are certain to find military brass and bureaucrats to support their position on a second temporary supply ship. Here are a few arguments for and against the acquisition of a second ship.

    For the ‘no’ side. The Canadian Navy can get by with only the Asterix supply ship until the two new Protecteur Class supply ships are delivered in the next 5-7 years. There is an ongoing political controversy around the acquisition of the Asterix. The acquisition of second ship, the Obelix, would double the controversy and take twice as long to dissipate. Not a good scenario with a Federal election so close. There is only a limited amount of money that will be allocated to the Canadian Navy regardless of which political party is in power. To purchase a second temporary supply ship now at the expense of some future, more pressing, acquisition would not be beneficial for the Canadian Navy over a longer timeline.

    For the ‘yes’ side. The acquisition of the Asterix supply ship was a rare occurrence in Canadian Military procurement. On time and on budget. Chantier Davie has a second ship, the Obelix, on hold. The shipyard has the manpower available and the conversion process is a proven concept. A second temporary supply ship would certainly give the Canadian Navy a lot of flexibility and options if delivery of the new Protecteur Class supply ships were delayed. Canada receives many requests to participate in naval exercises / humanitarian missions around the Globe. Our participation does not always have to involve a frigate. Possibly a fully stocked supply ship would be a more realistic fit. If at some future time, in 5-7 years when the Protecteur Class ships are in the fleet, we find one of the temporary supply ships surplus to Canadian Navy requirements it could almost certainly be sold to one of allies to recover cost.

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