There is an interesting discussion, over in Army.ca, 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 replace 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.”
I 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.