Rebuilding Canada’s navy [CANSEC2016D2]

26 May 2016

Under the umbrella of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS), Canada has embarked on a multibillion-dollar recapitalisation programme that will see the Royal Canadian Navy’s surface fleet replaced wholesale over the next 25 years.

Announced in June 2010, the NSPS has been established to end the ‘boom and bust’ cycle in Canadian shipbuilding, deliver much-needed equipment to the RCN and the Canadian Coast Guard, and support the Canadian economy by building ships in-country.

Indeed, the programme represents the largest procurement sourcing arrangement in Canadian history: industry analysts have estimated that government ship projects could ultimately contribute 15,000 jobs across the country and more than C$2 billion in annual economic benefit over a 30-year period.

The strategy has three pillars: large vessel construction; small vessel construction (ships under 1,000 tons); and vessel repair, refit and maintenance. The naval element of the programme is covered by the large vessel package, which is itself split into two threads: the combat package, for which Irving Shipbuilding has been selected as prime, includes the RCN’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) and the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) vessels, the latter to replace the navy’s current fleet of destroyers and frigates; while the non-combat package, for which Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards is prime, includes the navy’s Joint Support Ships (JSS) programme and the Canadian Coast Guard’s Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel, the Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel, and the Polar Icebreaker.

From the naval perspective, the planned 15-ship CSC programme – around which is wrapped a budget of C$26.2 billion – represents by far the largest prize.

Designed to replace three Iroquois class air defence destroyers and 12 Halifax class frigates, the CSC will be capable of meeting multiple threats in open ocean and complex coastal environments, ensure that Canada can continue to monitor and defend its waters, and also deploy in support of international operations.

It is currently anticipated that two CSC ship variants will be acquired to replace the specific capabilities of the Iroquois class destroyers and Halifax class frigates. As such, while both variants will have the necessary combat capabilities to operate in air, surface and subsurface threat environments, a small number of ships will additionally incorporate the sensors, guided weapons and command and fire control facilities necessary to perform area air defence. The remaining ships will replace the capabilities provided by the current fleet of Halifax class frigates.

In May 2015, the government outlined a CSC procurement strategy that would see Irving Shipbuilding – as prime contractor – work with a warship designer and a combat systems integrator (as first-tier subcontractors) to develop the ship design, and then perform build and integration.

Last November, Public Services and Procurement Canada announced that seven companies had been pre-qualified in each category, marking the first step in the competitive procurement process.

For the combat systems integrator role, Atlas Elektronik, DCNS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Saab Australia, Selex ES, Thales Nederland and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems made the shortlist.

As for the warship designer, Alion-JJMA, BAE Systems, DCNS, Fincantieri, Navantia, Odense Maritime Technology and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems were pre-qualified.

Earlier this year, however, it emerged that the new Trudeau government was rethinking the CSC acquisition plan. Instead of developing a ‘bespoke’ CSC solution, it is now looking at an acquisition that would use an off-the-shelf reference design from overseas that already has a proven and integrated combat system.

This approach is being favoured on grounds of reduced lower cost, reduced technical risks, and a more rapid introduction to service.

In advance of the CSC programme, Irving Shipbuilding has begun the construction of a class of six AOPS vessels, which will conduct armed seaborne surveillance in Canada’s waters, including in the Arctic.

These vessels will enhance the government’s ability to assert Canadian sovereignty and provide surveillance and support to other government departments.

A preliminary AOPS contract was signed with Irving Shipbuilding in July 2012. A definition contract followed in March 2013 to refine and complete the design-to-production level prior to construction. A build contract was signed in January 2015, with manufacture beginning in September 2015. First-of-class Harry DeWolf is scheduled for delivery in 2018, with the final ship planned for handover in 2022.

The other programme of significance for the RCN is the C$2.3 billion acquisition of two new Queenston class JSS vessels, with an option to acquire a third, to replace the service’s now-retired Protecteur class auxiliary oiler replenishment vessels HMCS Protecteur and HMCS Preserver.

The JSS will increase the range and endurance of naval task groups, enabling them to remain at sea for significant periods of time without returning to port for replenishment. They will also provide a home base for maintenance and operation of helicopters, a limited sealift capability, and support to operations ashore.

The JSS vessels will be built by Vancouver Shipyards under the NSPS non-combat package. In June 2013, following an evaluation of two options, the Canadian government announced that ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems Canada, proposing a Type 702 design variant off-the-shelf, had been selected as design agent.

The JSS project is currently conducting the initial design review contract. This will enable Vancouver Shipyards to fully review the ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems Canada ship design. A construction contract is planned for 2017, with the first delivery (HMCS Queenston) to follow around 2020.

In advance of the JSS introduction to service, the RCN will rely on a commercially operated interim auxiliary oil replenishment service to provide afloat support into the early part of the next decade. Under Project Resolve, Chantier Davie Canada of Lévis, Quebec, has purchased the commercial container ship Asterix for adaptation to the underway replenishment role. The interim service capability is planned to become available next year.

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