Monday, June 20, 2016

To Maintain Subs or Not? That is the Question for the RCN

Personal Opinion:

David Pugliese, who writes for Post Media in both the Ottawa Citizen and National Post (and also publishes at Defence Watch and DefenceNews recently posted the following about the Royal Canadian Navy's Victoria-Class submarines:

Here are my thoughts on the matter:

Firstly I honestly believe the Royal Canadian Navy needs to maintain a submarine fleet. Canada possesses the longest coastlines in the world when you take into consideration the thawing Arctic region; which itself is larger than continental Europe. The question then becomes should another $1.5-$3 Billion be spent on upgrading the Victoria-Class submarines to operate until 2030? The Simple answer is No.

What where once the Upholder-Class submarines - renamed Victoria-Class on the Canadian acquisition were never fully completed or updated before they where mothballed by the British Royal Navy in 1994. (The UK moved to a complete Nuclear-powered submarine fleet strategy) A total of 9 Upholder-class submarines were to be built in 3 phases. The 4 that were built were part of phase 1 and 2.

Phase 3 would have included more modern equipment and advancements in the design with any flaws that had become apparent in the earlier generations. This never occurred as the British Ministry of Defence scrapped the Upholder-class submarines before Phase 3. The 4 completed subs then sat mothballed between 1994 and 1998 when the Canadian government announced its $740 million acquisition of the 4 subs.

When you consider the cost of a new submarine today, $740 million for 4 is a bargain - and the government touted that in 1998 - despite the fact that nearly $1 billion would need to be spent before they entered service in the RCN between 2003 and 2015.

To be fair - few expected that the four Victoria-Class subs would need as much work as they ended-up needing.

In the current Defence Review, the government is looking at if it is worth it to keep the Victoria-Class submarines operating, especially as they will need an estimated $3 billion in upgrades to keep the fleet operational until the 2030s. Personally I think this is far too much money. The RCN has already spent close to $2 billion on the Victoria-Class subs. It is time to prepare for their retirement.

Instead of investing $3 billion in retrofitting these subs; look at purchasing new ones.

Australia recently announced a $20 billion program for 12 new Type 216 diesel submarines to be built in Germany. I am not saying Canada needs 12 submarines, but a new fleet of 4 to 6 would be extreamly useful. And $20 Billion? No way - the Type 216 is still a design and in the works; which shows why is costs are above $1 billion per submarine.

The model I am currently looking at is the German Type 212 submarine; currently being operated by Germany and Italy. At an initial cost of 370 million; if allowed to be built, could cost Canada $2 billion to build 4 new submarines, and $3 billion for 6.

U Boot 212 HDW 1.jpg
Submarine Typ 212 in Docks at HDW/Kiel (Germany).
The German Type 212 class, also Italian Todaro class, is a highly advanced design of non-nuclear submarine developed byHowaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG (HDW) for the German and Italian Navies. It features diesel propulsion and an additional air-independent propulsion (AIP) system using Siemens proton exchange membrane (PEM) compressed hydrogen fuel cells. The submarine can operate at high speed on diesel power or switch to the AIP system for silent slow cruising, staying submerged for up to three weeks without surfacing and with no exhaust heat. The system is also said to be vibration-free, extremely quiet and virtually undetectable.

The Type 212 is a much more advanced submarine than the Victoria-Class which the RCN currently operates, and with the ability to stay submerged for 3 weeks, it could easily operate in the Arctic.

It is time to stay looking for a new fleet of Canadian submarines instead of investing the total value of a new fleet into ones designed in the 1980s and constructed in the early 1990s.