More about ships (My plan (4))

There is an interesting discussion, over in, about the current “tanker war” in the Persian Gulf-Straits of Hormuz-Gulf of Oman region. One participant raises the very, very valid point that limited defence budgets mean that some countries (Britain and Canada come to mind very quickly) cannot afford large enough fleets of first-rate, general-purpose combat ships and he asks if a mixed fleet of fewer first-rate ships, like our new Type 26 ships plus more of smaller “patrol” ships wouldn’t be better. The problem, someone else explains, is that the smaller ships are less useful, overall, but yet another member points out that Canada’s small, so-called coastal patrol ships (the Kingston class) have never been busier ~ in the high Arctic, in the North Atlantic, on the Grand Banks, in the Caribbean and on the Pacific coast of Central America, and in Africa ~ and they are doing good work more cheaply than a frigate can. Another knowledgable member says that the “gold standard” for small patrol craft ~ one possible answer for the Straits of Hormuz problem is this modern (late 1990s) Finnish Hamina class patrol vessel:


It’s a fine-looking and fast (over 30 knots) vessel but, at only 250 tons and being just 51 metres (167 feet) in length and with a range of only 500 nautical miles it is:

  • Unable to carry an unmanned aerial vehicle, much less a manned helicopter which many experts think is essential for most modern operations; and
  • Truly a “coastal” vessel.

In contrast, Canada’s 25 years old Kingston class vessels have a range of up to 5,000 nautical miles and can carry unmanned aerial vehicles, but they are slow and are designed for underwater warfare, being fitted with specialist payloads to look for mines and other things on the seabed:


The Royal Canadian Navy has said, in the past, that it needs 25± surface combatants (the Navy uses the term “bottoms” when it means surface ships) and Canada has, now, 12 of the 30-year-old (but still lethal) Halifax class frigates and we also have, right now, 12 very useful little Kingston class ships, too. Canada plans (hopes?) to have 12 of the new Type 26 ships in the future, plus 5 of the very large (6,500+ tons) Harry DeWolf class Arctic patrol ships … so we are going from 24 down to 17?

My guesstimate is that a proper Canadian Navy needs, in addition to supply/support ships, at least:

  • 2 or 3 large (25,000± tons) helicopter carrying “destroyers,” (in fact, small aircraft carriers) perhaps like the modern Japanese Izumo-class multi-purpose “destroyers” (pictured below) to conduct multi-purpose operations, including carrying combat-ready specialized amphibious warfare trained soldiers, on a global basis;


  • 8 to 12 Type-26 destroyer-frigates (below) ~ I believe (guess) they will also be named for Canadian provinces, cities or rivers or something;


  • 6 to 10 modern corvettes (a modern Dutch design is pictured below), 1,500-ton to 2,500-ton vessels, with a 5,000± nautical mile range, each able to carry a helicopter or, at least, a large unmanned aerial vehicle;


  • 6 to 10 special purpose, ocean-going (i.e. with a range measured in thousands, not hundreds of nautical miles) underwater warfare vessels (a new French design, being built for Belgium and the Netherlands, is pictured) to replace the Kingston class ships; and


  •  8 to 12 armed “training” ships, about 250 tons (about the same as the Finnish Hamina class ship, at the top) to 06def6_ORCA_boatfrontreplace the (fairly new) Orca class vessels (right), which are not warships. These ships would be, primarily, training vessels, for which there is, always, a pressing need but they could, in emergencies, be used for coastal, constabulary patrol and search and rescue duties, too. The important thing is that they would be real warships, in commission, armed about as well as the Harry DeWolf class ships (which would enhance their training value, too) and, therefore, able to “fight.”

aops_2eI still believe, as I did about two years ago, that the Harry DeWolf class vessels, which the Navy, itself, explains are “constabulary” ships, not intended for combat operations, should be assigned to a constabulary force; in Canada that is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Marine Divison. They should be used in Canada in for (domestic/internal) police-type duties, but they could also participate, with the US Coast Guard, in Op CARIBBE.

Please note that I have only, barely, mentioned, supply/support ships, I have not even said (until just now) the word submarine, and I have not mentioned the needs for more aircraft or for special training for soldiers to be embarked in the very large helicopter “destroyers.” Nor can I even guess at costs ~ but we’re probably talking 100 Billion dollars over the life cycle (40+ years) of all these ships, out to or beyond, say, 2070.

This is an evolution in my, personal, guess about how Canada’s military should look. There is, I fear, little political interest and I am certain that the costs will frighten away the few politicians who might share some of my views.



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.

7 thoughts on “More about ships (My plan (4))

  1. Kingston Class ate useless in any role. They were to replace the old minesweepers and gate vessels in the training role. Some of the crew sometimes sleep in a shipping container. There is only one bottom scan sonar to share among the 12. Built to civil standards under a Mulriney untendered contract to SNC-Lavalin; would be unable to survive combat damage. Armament is two WWII 50 Cal MGs.

    On a humorous note, HMCS Nanaimo with a Bofors gun with a KG VI emblem embossed in the barrel, was the AA defense for the Yeltsin/Clinton summit in Vancouver.

  2. Small machine guns on the Kingston class or the new patrol ships that are not even commissioned yet limit the effectiveness of this ships. Why couldn’t the effective weapons systems from our decommissioned destroyers ( or older weapons from the Halifax frigates) be partially installed on our smaller vessels. At the start of the first gulf war our old destroyers were up dated with weapons meant for the future Halifax class, the switch was made in weeks, not years, it goes to show what can be actually done when one puts their mind to making something actually happen.

  3. In a perfect world Canada would have the navy required to be the the ‘middle power’ that we envision ourselves to be. That is not likely to happen any time soon as there is little political will or public support to spend the money required to accomplish this. If that is the case then let us make the best out of what we have. The fifteen new frigates on order are a must have and we should not let anything disrupt that procurement. As we still need additional ships to round out the fleet what are the options? Are we farther ahead with an existing hull in the water and a gun on the deck over a modern design that, realistically, never gets past the design phase? Here are two possible scenarios to address the Kingston Class ships.

    Scenario one. Canada decides to purchase a fleet of new corvettes, possibly the Next Generation Corvette from Saab. The Goverment will immediately retire the existing fleet to save money for the new procurement. The Navy will inflate their wish list, and the final cost, to get all the latest technology in to the design. The three main Canadian shipyards begin fighting, in the media, over which yard should get the contract. Irregardless of how back logged they currently may be. The political lobbyists kick in to high gear over which area of the country is more deserving of the work. The governing party, to maximize political points, will set all sorts of criteria; technology transfer, build in Canada, equal contract value in Canadian offsets, etc. The procurement will get analyzed to death and nothing will get past the request for proposals.

    Scenario two. It is an election year and politicians are searching for low cost and immediate results. Sole source a contract to upgrade the twelve Kingston Class patrol ships. The shipyard in Quebec is most likely the best candidate at this point in time. The most political mileage available and the shipyard currently has the capacity to start immediately. A budget of 1.5 billion should be adequate and low enough to fly under the radar. Although the current ship design is aged, it has served Canada in many different operations and with moderate upgrades should have another twenty years of service left. Install a middle caliber remote controlled main gun. A containerized short range multi purpose missile system. If you can put it on a tank chassis (ADATS) you should be able to install a reasonable facsimile in a ship mounted container. A few more general upgrades and you still have twelve hulls in the water with a gun on the deck.

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