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Bring Back Canada’s Fighting Corvettes Pt 2

August 11, 2009
HMCS Winnipeg FFH-338, a Halifax Class Frigate.

HMCS Winnipeg FFH-338, a Halifax Class Frigate.

If Canada would look to its roots, from the world wars where it was the world’s Third Largest Navy, it might find the means to fund its many and often delayed shipbuilding plans. Currently the backbone of the fleet consists of aged destroyers, missile frigates, and conventional submarines, whose functions and roles could be adequately replaced by modern corvettes, themselves far more capable than during the war years.

The new Canadian Home Fleet would costs of 3 “Influence Squadrons“, for the Atlantic, Pacific, and the Arctic. Each would average 10 corvettes, 2 submarines, and a logistics mothership, though numbers could vary more or less according to each squadrons’ particular need. In time of war or crisis, a second or even a third mothership could be deployed if the squadron need to split up, or because of a loss in battle. Special task forces should be taken from each of the three fleets to operate with our allies, as in the ongoing anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.

Corvettes and submarines should be proven designs already in service and production, though built new in Canadian yards if possible, to reduce costs, technical difficulties, and insure quick delivery dates.(I can’t emphasize this latter point enough, the idea being to get a reasonable numbers of hulls in the water in a reasonable time-frame, a basic art seemingly lost to Western Navies) The same rule should hold for motherships, keeping them around 15,ooo tons. Converted merchant freighters or older amphibious vessels bought off the shelf should be considered first before the expense of new build ships are undertaken.

The following are examples of the makeup of the new fleet:

  • 10 Anti-Air Warfare Corvettes-$250 million each
  • 10 Patrol Corvettes-$100 million each
  • 10 Aviation Corvettes-$100 million each
  • 10 Coastal Submarines-$250 million
  • 5 Motherships-$250 million each
A Kingston class 970 ton coastal defense vessel.

A Kingston class 970 ton coastal defense vessel.

Numbers for each particular type could vary of course, but we would hope the price of each would remain stable, if not less. This could be performed by keeping specifications and add-on’s as limited as possible for existing designs. We have no particular favorite but the AAW corvette should be armed with a medium range to point anti-missile system like the American ESSM, British Sea Wolf, or the Israeli Barak system. The quality of the patrol corvette could vary, as we are thinking an offshore patrol vessel type. This craft could also carry bombardment rockets like NetFires to support amphibious operations. The aviation corvette would load up to 2 helicopters or perhaps 3-5 UAVs, perhaps geared toward ASW warfare. By limiting aviation assets to these vessels, the cost of the others could be kept to a reasonable number.

Submarines should be of the small or coastal variety, from 1000-1500 tons. Again this should be an existing design, though new build unlike the present Victoria class and armed with ship-killing missiles. Because we say “small” submarines doesn’t mean “less capable” since conventional boats are now greatly dreaded by even the mighty US Navy, who has operated with such vessels, notably against German Type 209 and Swedish Gotland class boats in naval exercises. For a small navy, such silent and lethal craft are capital vessels.

Sa'ar 5 Missile Corvette. Probably the most powerful ship in the world for its size. Courtesy Deror avi.

Sa'ar 5 Missile Corvette. Probably the most powerful ship in the world for its size. Courtesy Deror avi.

The new battleship for the surface navy would be these small off the shelf corvettes. Canada’s new corvette centric fleet would not be out of the ordinary, as we noted yesterday, but an homage to its glory days when such vessels as well as light frigates and destroyers were the core of the fleet. For about $10 billion she could deploy a powerful and balanced fleet unlike any seen in Northern waters in decades.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. UndergradProgressive permalink
    August 11, 2009 7:12 pm

    Mike, what would you suggest in terms of the mothership? Would it be along the lines of an LPD or a destroyer tender and/or submarine tender?

    I wonder if it’d be a good idea to throw a VLS on one of the corvettes – a “land attack” variant?

  2. Hudson permalink
    August 11, 2009 1:53 pm

    Everyone could use a few corvettes (though putting them in Canada’s Arctic seems like a stretch to me). As others have pointed out, cost is an issue. Case in point, the French thought they had sold three of their new Gowind class of corvettes to Bulgaria. But at 300+ mil. euros per ship, the Bulgarians opted to upgrade their own fleet instead.

    The truth is, it costs too much to build major surface combatants in the West anymore. The answer to our needs might come from the Far East.

    Hundai Heavy Industries has won a $107 mil. contract to build the lead ship for South Korea’s FFX stealth frigate. This is a very well specificied design, with some U.S. components such as the RAM system, and a 5” deck gun. At 3,200t it’s not a monster, and has good range at 4,500nm. For the cost, it’s far superior to a corvette, superior to the LCS.

    Hundai, already a powerhouse in marine shipbuilding, is designing the FFX for export and domestic use. Its shipyards will be busy filling domestic orders for years to come. This should not prevent a collaborative deal with U.S. (and other) shipyards modeled on existing Asian car plants in the U.S.

    At the very least, the Korean FFX would make a good replacement for the aging Perry class. You can’t beat the price and quality is bound to be excellent. My Samsung cell phone is stylish and works just fine.

  3. Defiant permalink
    August 11, 2009 12:31 pm

    cut the steel price in my comment above, i hacked in one zero too much, it’s only 1M for 1500t

  4. Defiant permalink
    August 11, 2009 11:10 am

    The price estimate lacks.
    76mm/62 cannon – 5M$+
    Radar System – 6M+
    CIWS – Phalanx 8Million per unit / RAM 22M+ per 21 cell unit
    HArpoons 4 for about 4Million

    This should be basic equipment, it’s already 20M+ with low balled prices and without any integration. It would be more reasonable to estimate 16 Million for 2 ciws or 22 for the RAM.
    THe radar system is simply the cost for an/SPY1 halved. Cannon estimate based on 14M€ for the 127 oto melara, so 5M$ is probably only half of the real price for a 76mm.
    MOre realistic would be 50Million+ for basic weapon Systems with integration.

    Steel price 700$/t x 1500t = 10M$

    Leaves 40M for shipbuiling, propulsion system and developement, left out other electronic stuff like decoys/sonar/ecm/communication equipment …

    I don’t think 100M will give you an appropriate military vessel.

    The danish absalon derived ivar huitfeldt class cost 212M per 6500t ship, without developement / sensors /effectors and integration and built to commercial standards.
    this would be at least 50M for a corvette.
    So 50Million for the ship + 50Million for equipment = at least 100 Million for Material alone, without developement, systems integration, qualification, training, military standard, …

  5. Heretic permalink
    August 11, 2009 11:05 am

    Mike, how about an evolution of the FSF series (points at blog banner pic) to meet Canada’s specific needs in an aviation ship.

    You’re also going to need icebreakers in a canadian fleet … unless you expect the polar ice cap to stay melted forever … which last I looked would move some coastlines (because Greenland would be GREEN again!).

  6. August 11, 2009 9:00 am

    “10 Aviation Corvettes-$100 million each”

    …and their helicopters (1 each) would cost almost as much as well.

  7. Defiant permalink
    August 11, 2009 6:39 am

    The patrol corvette would probably be fitted with ASuW equipment, but what would the AAW corvette be equipped with? And the Aviation corvette?
    Would the german k130 from concept be your patrol corvette?
    How would you handle ASW, corvettes will have trouble taking a 10t helicopter.


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