Big ships

There is considerable discussion over on (or if you wish) beginning about here on the subject of large warships. I have touched on this before, going all the way back to General Rick Hillier’s desire, back when he was Chief of the Defence Staff ddh-183_いずも_(5)(in 2005-2008), to have a “big honkin’ ship,” as he described it ~ in fact he wanted a multi-role support ship, which could serve as a tanker and troop carrier, too. Now, near the end of that interesting thread, one member raises the prospect of buying two of the very modern Japanese Izumo class helicopter carrying ‘destroyers’ – which are 800+ feet long and displace over 25,000 tons fully loaded. (For contrast the support ship Asterix, the largest ship in Canada’s fleet, today, is just inches short of 600 feet long and displaces about 23,000 tons.

I was, back in December of 2016 (second link, above), unsure about Canada’s need for and capacity to use a big honkin’ ship, but some of my friends. who have much better knowledge of (and real experience in) amphibious operations than I ever had and who have actually studied the issue, suggest that this is the right sort of ship for Canada … one of several. What all of my friends agree on is that, now, in 2019, the Royal Canadian Navy doesn’t have enough men and women to man its planned fleet, much less two, new, large warships … in short, we need a bigger Navy.

The proponent of this idea suggests that these ships (he says two, I think we would need three to cover periods in extended repair and refit) would be flagships for Canada’s two ddh-183_いずも_(11)‘blue water’ (global) fleets in Esquimalt and Halifax. But for any Canadian government to ‘sell’ voters on the idea of more money and more people to make the Navy able to operate big ships like these they will have to be classed as multi-role vessels with the emphasis on disaster relief and so on, which is something the Japanese also emphasized when these ships were procured, in 2015. Indeed, the ship, which has a crew complement of about 400, I think, can transport about 400 soldiers (say two large combat teams in Canadian Army parlance) and about 50 medium logistics vehicles, in addition to five to ten helicopters, making it suited for disaster relief and for unilateral, low intensity amphibious operations.

I am persuaded that there is a case for new, big ships in the Royal Canadian Navy … we had them from 1943 (HMS Nabob was a British aircraft carrier commanded and crewed by Canadians) through HMCS Magnificent (1948-57) until HMCS Bonaventure (1957 to 1970). I suspect that the military case for such ships is fairly easy to make, but the political case would be much more difficult ~ likely impossible in an election year.


Published 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.

3 thoughts on “Big ships

  1. There are numerous situations where the Canadian Navy could effectively deploy a large multipurpose vessel. Undoubtedly there will be many more in the future. A few of our close allies have sold off used, but very capable ships, that could have been converted for Canadian service. Always purchased by another country long before Canada would take a serious look at acquiring them. France offerred to sell Canada two ‘Mistral Class’ assault ships that were constructed for Russia but not delivered. One ship was brought to Canada for a military exercise to verify that it would be an acceptable fit. Ultimately politics and an impending federal election scuttled any chance of a deal. The ships were eventually sold to Egypt.

    Realistically the Canadian Navy will not be procuring a large multipurpose ship at any time in the near future. There is minimal political will or favourable public opinion for such an acquisition. The current Federal Goverment is struggling to complete military procurements established by the previous party in power. Deferral and dithering is pushing current / future military procurements foreword in time to a fiscal logjam that will make any new large procurement impossible to fund.

    It will be difficult to convince the Canadian voting public of the value of a large multipurpose ship for the Canadian Navy. Although the Japanese Navy promoted their large ‘Izumo Class’ helicopter capable ships for a secondary use as disaster assistance ships that is not the primary capability. The Japanese Navy is currently exploring the option of using F-35B stealth fighters from this class of ship. Were a story about this proposed capability to be printed in Canadian newspapers Canada would not be acquiring the Japanese design.

    It is a possible that the Canadian Navy will have difficulty receiving the funding necessary to procure the full fifteen surface combatant frigates that are proposed. If funding could be tight is this a good time to get sidetracked with discussions about a large multipurpose ship. Does the Canadian Navy have the manpower or docking facilities to incorporate a new class of ship. Would any potential funding be more effectively spent on upgrading the ‘Kingston Class’ coastal defence vessels. Purchasing an additional supply ship from Davie Shipbuilding. Or starting the process to acquire a replacement of the ‘Victoria Class’ submarines with 6 – 8 new design vessels with an under ice capability.

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