Monday, July 20, 2015

HMCS Athabaskan in rough shape: Rear Admiral Admits

Earlier this year the Royal Canada Navy retired two of its three destroyers, HMCS Algonquin  and HMCS Iroquois due to their age, and the extensive damage. Now, Canada's last destroyer, HMCS Athabaskan is in for repairs, after its engines suffered a breakdown while on exercise. The Ottawa Citizen reports that this is not the first time Athabaskan has had engine issues, and now cracks in her hull have been found.

HMCS Athabaskan is the flagship of the Atlantic fleet for the RCN, and now she is sidelined until the fall (or so the RCN hopes). According to the Ottawa Citizen, the engines on Athabaskan broke down earlier this year while the vessel was on exercise in Florida and then again in the Caribbean.

According to several crew members, the engines are not the only problem, The vessel struggles to hold onto is fresh water supply - making life aboard her difficult. The Ottawa Citizen was given leaked documents from June 2015, that show that Athabaskan also has cracks in her hull; the same reason Iroquois was retired.

The problems came to the attention of Read Admiral John Newton, when on a recent sail day in Halifax. Newton was on-board the vessel when the engines again had issues; but Newton also noticed several other problems.   After talks with the crew, Newton came to realize that several repairs had been deferred to keep the vessel afloat, which were causing unnecessary hardships for the crew.

The Navy is extremely hopeful the repairs can take place quickly, as Athabaskan was one of five RCN vessels that is scheduled to take part in Operation TRIDENT JUNCTURE-15 - NATO's largest exercise in Europe since the end of the Cold War - which is scheduled to take place in September/October of this year.

Newton found that several of the ships essential equipment is so worn that controls and directions are hard to, if not impossible to make out. Newton brought the attention to the Navy command to get the repairs complete, as much of the repairs had been delegated to the crew, who have little to no experience depending on the repairs required. Newton hopes they can restore Athabaskan and keep her operational until her scheduled retirement in 2017. The Navy does not expect the new Canadian Surface Combatant vessels to be ready until 2025.

The RCN has blamed much of the neglect of its equipment on the War in Afghanistan - as for nearly two decades, the Army and Air Force we given billions of dollars to upgrade their equipment to get the job done - the Navy wasn't in Afghanistan, and therefore was left out of the procurement loop.