“Canada could benefit from expanding its military presence in the Asia-Pacific”

A look at Canada’s capabilities. In essence, the same as every navy smaller than the USN… augmenting the American force with the key focus on interoperability.

The Royal Canadian Navy in the Pacific – a look at capabilities

By David McDonough

HMCS Algonquin (DDG 283)

Canada could benefit from expanding its military presence in the Asia-Pacific. As I described in a previous Strategist post, the government faces certain budgetary constraints likely to limit the size of its future naval presence and capacity for maritime diplomacy. Yet such a challenge isn’t insurmountable. To ensure sufficient fleet funding, Canada has the option of placing greater priority on the capital portion of the defence budget—even if it comes at the expense of personnel and operations/maintenance spending.

Such a move would offer Ottawa some leverage to join the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus. More importantly, Canada would have a means to help augment America’s naval power in the region, which is expected to be under increasing strain as a result of defence cutbacks—at a time when China is expanding its own naval fleet and showing greater assertiveness in its maritime disputes with its neighbours.

Other like-minded countries have already begun to focus on their own maritime forces. For example, Japan has strengthened its naval fleet with advanced (e.g. air-independent propulsion) submarines, helicopter destroyers, and plans for helicopter carriers, with a keen eye for possible amphibious operations to protect its vulnerable south-western approaches. Australia has also been eager to deploy a more formidable naval presence with its planned acquisition of Aegis destroyers and replacements for its Collins-class submarines. Both platforms are expected to have the high-end command, control, communications, and weapon systems necessary to ensure operational interoperability with the US Pacific Fleet.

Like the Australian navy, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) also has a strong tradition of interoperability with its American counterparts, to the point where Canadian warships can also be seamlessly integrated into US naval task forces (PDF). It would serve the RCN well to ensure that its future naval platforms can continue to be integrated with the US and other regional navies. Much depends on the capabilities offered by these naval platforms, which should be designed to complement America’s efforts at maintaining operational access to the Western Pacific.

The RCN needs to maintain some of its high end maritime war fighting capabilities. Of particular relevance is area air defence (AAD), a capability that should be retained and upgraded on its destroyer replacements—much as Australia has done with upgrades to its Anzac frigates and the Aegis equipped destroyers. Indeed, the United States, Japan, and other allies have become increasingly wary of China’s advanced anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities, from shore-based aircraft and missiles to an undersea and surface fleet heavily armed with anti-ship cruise missiles—a concern reportedly also shared by the RCN, at least according to drafts of its unreleased Horizon 2050 naval strategy.

For the RCN to maintain interoperability with its key regional partners, Canada should also ensure that some of its next-generation Canadian Surface Combatants incorporate the Aegis combat system—joining other regional powers including Japan, Australia, South Korea, and the US Navy. Importantly, Aegis can also be upgraded to provide a mid-course and terminal ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability. Both the United States and Japan have proven eager to expand their BMD fleet, due to China’s development of a much feared anti-ship ballistic missile. Other countries may soon follow suit.

An anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability would also be highly valued in a region where many countries are expanding their submarine inventories. Much of the concern is on China’s undersea fleet, as a possible ‘assassin’s mace‘ capable of challenging American and allied sea control in this maritime theatre. For this reason, the US Navy has already been increasing its ASW assets in the region, with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) operating a formidable fleet that specializes in undersea and surface ASW.

The RCN already has a long history of ASW operations. Indeed, with its fleet of Victoria-class submarines, the RCN would be better placed for these missions than in the past, when it largely relied on surface ASW and escort duties. It also provides the natural locus for cooperation with regional navies, like the JMSDF. Of course, ASW isn’t necessarily cheap. Canada would eventually need to replace its fleet of Aurora maritime patrol aircraft and Victoria submarines. But, given the growing demand for ASW, we shouldn’t underplay the benefits that could be accrued by returning to this specialisation.

With such capabilities, the RCN would be well placed to support American and allied efforts to ensure sea control in the Western Pacific. If required, Canada would also be able to join in defensive missions envisioned in the US Air-Sea Battle concept, while avoiding its more offensive plans to disrupt and destroy A2/AD systems at their source.

Yet it would all be for naught if Canada lacks the logistics for sustained operations in the Pacific, therefore raising the issue of operational sustainment. Sadly, little attention has been paid to the future of the RCN’s auxiliary oiler replenishment fleet. Indeed, it’ll now have to settle for the acquisition of only two Joint Supply Ships, thereby increasing the chances that Canadian warships will be unable to be deployed for sustained operations abroad—unless an ally provides at-sea replenishment, which can no longer be guaranteed given the growing demand for such logistics ships.

In such a situation, the RCN might find its emphasis on Pacific operations curtailed, even if it otherwise enjoys high-end capabilities well-suited to that region. But, more importantly, it could also find its historic role as a blue-water fleet possibly endangered. Such an outcome would be doubly unfortunate, and is an important reminder not to ignore the logistical tail.

David S. McDonough is a SSHRC post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Political Science, University of British Colombia and a research fellow in the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University. Image courtesy of Flickr user U.S. Pacific Command.

http://www.aspistrategist.org.au/the-royal-canadian-navy-in-the-pacific-a-look-at-capabilities/

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VIDEO: Life aboard HMCS Victoria

Globe and Mail reporter Daniel Bitonti and photographer John Lehmann board the HMCS Victoria, and experience first hand what living on a submarine really involves.

$531m contract to upgrade Canadian submarine force

The Royal Canadian Navy’s long-troubled Victoria class submarines require more work, more funds, and no doubt more grumbling in Ottawa’s corridors of power. While protecting jobs at the Esquimalt dockyard is a “good thing” these Victoria class boats are not going to be remembered with the same level of affection that the old Oberon class were.

New $531-million submarine contract protects 200 jobs at Esquimalt

The Harper government is set to announce a five-year, $531-million contract extension to repair and upgrade Canada’s fleet of four diesel-electric submarines. Photograph by: Handout , DND

OTTAWA — B.C.’s shipbuilding and repair industry will get a shot of good news Thursday when the Harper government announces a five-year, $531-million contract extension to repair and upgrade Canada’s fleet of four diesel-electric submarines, The Vancouver Sun has learned.

The contract, following a similar agreement struck in 2008, will protect roughly 200 jobs at the department of national defence’s Fleet Maintenance Facility in Esquimalt, according to a federal official.

Another 200 jobs will be protected at locations elsewhere in Canada, he said.

“This significant federal investment will support more than 400 high-quality jobs, improve the long-term sustainability of B.C.’s shipbuilding industry and provide the best tools for Canada’s sailors,” he said in a prepared statement.

The contract was won in a competitive bid by Babcock Canada Inc., a subsidiary of the British multinational firm Babcock International Group PLC.

Babcock International won the original contract in 2008 after it teamed up with Weir Canada Inc. of Mississauga, Ont., to create a consortium called the Canadian Submarine Management Group.

However, Babcock announced in 2011 that CSMG would be renamed Babcock Canada Inc. after Weir’s share of the joint venture was transferred to Babcock.

The original contract award caused a political flap because Babcock beat out Irving Shipbuilding, which wanted to keep the repair work in Halifax.

One of the critics was Green party leader Elizabeth May, who at the time was planning her run against Defence Minister Peter MacKay in his Nova Scotia riding.

May, who accused the government of an “anti-Atlantic bias,” is now the MP for the Vancouver Island riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

The original five-year contract in 2008 was worth $370 million over five years, but if CSMG met performance targets the contract was to be extended over 15 years, for a total value of up to $1.5 billion.

Thursday’s announcement gives a clear indication that Babcock has met those targets.

The fleet of four Victoria-class diesel-electric submarines has had a rocky history after the Liberal government made what appeared to be the bargain-basement purchase of the mothballed subs from the Royal Navy for $750 million in 1998.

It took far longer and was costlier than expected to make the vessels seaworthy, and in 2004 the HMCS suffered a fire that left one officer dead. In 2011, HMCS Corner Brook ran aground near Vancouver Island during manoeuvres.

There are now two subs, HMCS Victoria and HMCS Windsor, that are fully operational.

HMCS Chicoutimi is currently being serviced at Esquimalt but is expected to be ready for sea trials later this year.

The HMCS Corner Brook is also in Esquimalt for both repairs and a refit.

The fleet is “at the highest state of readiness that they’ve ever been,” the source said.

http://www.vancouversun.com/news/metro/million+submarine+contract+protects+jobs+Esquimalt/8613939/story.html