Seeking Solutions for Canada’s Navy Pt 2
Proposing Canada’s Mothership
Last week the following story concerning the Chilean Navy appeared in the news:
The United States, and Atlantic Marine in Mobile have made it possible for Chile to add a new ship to its Navy. The Almirante Montt was commissioned by members of the U.S. and Chilean Navy in Mobile Wednesday. Brand new maritime flags whipped in the freezing wind as U.S. and Chilean naval officers commissioned the Almirante Montt to the Chilean Navy.
The 678 foot long ship, formerly the U.S.S. Andrew J. Higgins, has been under renovation at Atlantic Marine in Mobile. Wednesday the ship was ready to set sail, but under a new flag and a new ship commander.
Canada could do well with a 31,000 ton mothership like the former U.S.S. Andrew J. Higgins, bought off the shelf. Within her on again, off again search for a new Joint Support Ship, she had even considered a smaller vessel with the Danish built Absalon, a command and support ship, which priced at least $269 million(US) each! Not bad for a 6000 ton frigate type vessel, which is specially geared for cargo and troops as well as a proven “pirate buster“.
The Danes aren’t the only Navy to use their motherships as warships. The British Royal Navy has been consistently deploying Royal Fleet Auxiliaries to make up for their lack of frigates on patrol. For example, read a few of the exploits of one such vessel, the RFA Wave Ruler:
In 2006 the Wave Ruler carried out three major cocaine seizures at sea. In September it recovered £64m of cocaine from an estimated cargo of £500m, after the crew of the fishing boat carrying the drugs set it on fire. On November 2 the ship and its accompanying Royal Marines captured 3 tonnes of cocaine worth £300m. On November 29 it seized a further 2.9 tonnes, again from a fishing boat. All the raids took place in the Caribbean.
An amazing accomplishment for a 31,000 ton fleet oiler, that barely qualifies the title of auxiliary warship, and prices at $172 million each! Except it is the future of warfare, where you don’t need billion dollar missile destroyers or frigates when the main threat at sea are terrorists smuggling WMDs, or pirates in skiffs backed by their own converted freighter/motherships, or drug runners of the Caribbean. In other words, you do not always need an exquisite, expensive, purpose built supership to manage problems of modern seapower. The admirals may argue against this inconvenient truth, surrounded by their shrinking and aging number of battleships, but there it is.
The HSV Mothership
As much as any Navy, Canada’s stand to benefit from a New Wars proposal to divide the frigate mission among motherships and low cost corvettes. One such mothership we have offered as an LCS replacement has been the JHSV, which the US Army and Navy are buying for various roles. Ironically some Canadians considered a similar idea for a JSS replacement a few years back. Here is a modest proposal from the Canadian-American Strategic Review:
There is an opportunity here – build aluminum catamarans that would satisfy JSS’ transport role as well as the TSV (Theater Support Vessel ) requirement for the US Army. BC shipyards already have experience in welded aluminum construction and the exports would subsidize the CF’s purchase costs. So the proposal is simple – abandon the over-elaborate concept of JSS in favour of two dedicated types: a small oiler, and a fast transport closely based on the US Army’s TSV.
The high speed vessel would have been a perfect transport for disaster supplies in earthquake damaged Haiti, as 2 Superferries are operating their today. Few large ships can sail right up against a coastline to offload its supplies as these fast catamarans, then speed away at up to 40 knots to reload again. HSV’s could likely perform long range patrol missions in low threat areas, as they have done in US service. These motherships would be for the nation’s long distance commitments to NATO within the Mediterranean, the Gulf, and elsewhere. They could also guard her massive coastlines, especially near the Arctic Circle, now much coveted by a resource hungry planet.
Capability Versus Availability
6-8 motherships, bought off the shelf, converted from existing vessels like the O’Higgins, or purchased or designed in foreign yards such as the Absalon, or one built to commercial standards like the Wave class, would not only be cost-efficient, but provide enormous capability. Prices should be capped at $400 million each but $100 million should not be unthinkable. Not only would they be for disaster relief, they could resupply smaller warships which are needed to defend the Arctic, transport supplies and troops for land wars, perform patrol duties like frigates, and also for disaster relief. Specifically, they would be for the unexpected crisis as in Haiti, available in the numbers when they are needed most, something which a couple very large, very expensive JSS cannot promise to provide.