By David Pugliese, Defence Watch
With the defence review underway – and everything or most everything on the table – part of the discussion will inevitably focus on Canada’s Victoria-class submarine fleet. At least once during the Conservative’s time in office, suggestions emerged that the government was looking at shutting down the fleet to save money. Will that same proposal surface this time around?
Royal Canadian Navy commander Vice Admiral Mark Norman believes there should be a debate about the role of Canada’s submarines but from a maritime security and capability perspective. The navy, he said, sees Canada’s submarine fleet “as the ultimate guarantor of maritime sovereignty.”
Here is more of what Norman told Defence Watch:
“There is no other platform in service anywhere that can do what a submarine can do. And I don’t see that sort of essential capability being replaced by anything in the foreseeable future. Ultimately the submarine is about controlling water space. It is a very capable surveillance platform. It has great endurance. It has incredible stealth. Those are all worthwhile characteristics of a submarine, but ultimately its purpose is to control water space. If Canada ever has the desire or the need to declare exclusive control over a column of water, either in our own territory or elsewhere, there’s only one platform that can do that. You can mine it or you can put submarines in. The discussion unfortunately in this country has focused understandably, but excessively on the trials and tribulations of the class itself, and not on the inherent strategic essence of the capability. We’re surrounded on three sides by water. We have the largest ocean state in the world. And I don’t care how much remote sensing, UAVs, aircraft or any other technology you want to throw at our massive maritime state, if you want to control it or any part of it at any time of your choosing you got to have a submarine in it. Others need to know that you have a submarine in it because that in and of itself has an asymmetric deterrent effect.
This is a discussion that needs to take place. It needs to be an informed debate. It needs to be a debate based on fact and analysis, and not based on rhetoric and innuendo. The capability of the Victoria class is actually very robust. And we’ve had enormous success in both continental missions, and recently in the latter part of 2015, Windsor did some incredible things in support of NATO as we were dealing with some Russian activity in the North Atlantic.
We need to have the conversation. And as I indicated, the conversation needs to be about the capability and not about the merits of the acquisition of the current platform, which is unfortunately where the debate often goes.”