Canada’s Destroyer Replacement
Previously, New Wars has offered suggestions for low-cost alternatives to restore the Canadian Navy, suffering as many Western fleets from difficulties in replacing aging Cold War equipment stocks. Proposals have included off the shelf versions of foreign designed corvettes, submarines, and motherships, which shouldn’t be considered less capable than high end destroyers and frigates, but the right choices for current threats facing modern militaries. Thanks to new technology, small warships can also perform many of the varied function once expected of high performance multimission platforms.
It is easy to see though why Canada would want to replace its large, though very antiquated Tribal class destroyers. The Navy, despite being small (currently about 33 warships) has always operated alongside the premier Western naval powers, whether the British Empire or the United States superpower. It is clear current classes of destroyers might be likened to “new battleships” considering their immense anti-air, ant-surface, and anti-submarine capabilities. There is no reason why rich and technically advanced Canada wouldn’t want to possess such effective combat vessels.
The Unlikely Solution
Few in the Navy think they will get a new destroyer replacement anytime soon, and that is sad. It isn’t so much a lack of will as a lack of funds, as each successive government promises to deal with the nation’s equipment woes, until reality sets in. The cost of modern weapons being so high, you even see the mighty American juggernaut with an embarrassingly bloated budget unable to recoup combat losses and replace aging equipment one-on-one. Here are some preliminary specs:
- Displacement-6000 tons full
- Length-143 meters
- Speed-30 knots
- Armament-• 24 × Honeywell Mk 46 Mod 5 torpedoes
• 24-48 × RIM-161 SM-3 surface-to-air missiles
• 8-16 × RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile
• 8-16 × Boeing RGM-84 Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles
• 1 × 57 mm Bofors Mk3 gun
• 2 × 20 mm Vulcan Phalanx Mk15 CIWS
• 6 × .50 caliber (12.7 mm) heavy machine guns
- Aircraft-Hangar for 1x CH-148 Cyclone helicopter
These Single Class Surface Combatants (SCSC) will be known as “Province class” destroyers, obviously named after the nation’s provinces, replacing the remaining Iroquois or Tribal class DDGs. It is also possible that if built, they will combine as a Halifax frigate successor in the same hull. It was originally intended for a Batch 2 Halifax to be 33 feet longer to carry the extra sensors needed, but these vessels were constructed to the Batch 1 standard for cost savings.
The Ideal Solution
The Navy has looked at European designs for its destroyer replacement, mainly concerning retrofitting the Smart-L radar used in Dutch and German vessels to the existing frigates. Because of size issues (the frigates would be top-heavy), this has been rejected, so another plan might be to simply order vessels from overseas, or copy them for construction in Canadian yards. Candidates might include the F-100 class for Spain and Norway, but also the German MEKO type that is export ready.
The Norwegian Nansen especially corresponds to the dimensions of Halifax, and is currently the smallest vessel to carry the Aegis combat system, the AN/SPY-1F, (though an even smaller version called the AN/SPY-1K is on the market). Ships of this class also price at $326 million each, or about 1/6 the cost of an American Burke DDG. The slightly larger, and more potent Spanish F100 carries the longer range Standard missile as opposed to the Nansen’s Sea Sparrow ESSM. An intriguing alternative is the Danish Ivar Huitfeldt, based on the respected Absalon hull, and of roughly the same dimensions as the Spanish and Norwegian ships.
The Sensible Solution
Considering the success of the Tribal updates from the 1990s, transforming these conventionally armed ASW escorts into very potent guided missile destroyers, it seems natural that the Halifax ships, already undergoing a Frigate Life Extension program would be considered for the same treatment. Such a proposal has been looked into by the Navy, and judged undesirable since the placing of large phased-array type radars on the 5000 ton frigate hull would likely make them top heavy.
Basically the same consideration did not hinder the USN in the 1970s placing the first generation of Aegis radar on the similar sized Spruance class destroyer. Nor has it seemed to negate the effectiveness of this revolutionary class of warship, and there seems little hindrance that smaller versions of the amazing Spy-1 radar deployed since might be fitted onto the Canadian ships. Other considerations might be removing the gun or helicopter hanger should the space be necessary.
Perhaps the Halifax DDG could benefit from some proposals offered here at New Wars, such as placing the Aegis or European Apar on a “mothership“, which would be a non-combat vessel except for point defenses. The size and capability of such an alternative would be virtually unlimited and unhindered by the space constraints of a combat vessel. Other considerations might be using unmanned aerial vehicles and targeting platforms or satellites, as discussed at Aviation Week.
A small cadre of large exquisite ships like 4-6 upgraded Halifax might be sufficient, for homeland defense and overseas deployments. These would be backed by a larger force of 30 or more small patrol ships, OPVs and corvettes, combining he duties of the current general purpose frigates and the planned Arctic Patrol Ships. To expedite procurement and reduce costs, these should be off the shelf, and a foreign design is very desirable here. They would be supported by New Wars’ own proposal for a Joint Support Ship, which could also do overseas deployments in place of frigates.
If possible, at least 10 coastal submarines should be procured, very small to replace the 4 large Victoria class.
The Threats Based Canadian Navy
The destroyer replacement requirement might be looked at in terms of future strategy, in other words, what does the nation need to contend with modern and potential threats? Historically that entails defense of the homeland and various treaty commitments as with NATO and the UN. Currently, the new threats of this century have evolved into concern over foreign encroachments into Canada’s arctic territories and supporting the ongoing War on Terror overseas.
Naturally you would want to build a fleet to match the threat, and the temptation may be to try to fit something that was adequate for the last century conflicts into the present problems of sea power. Having to spend exorbitant funds on the Army in Afghanistan means the Navy has been underfunded for a decade, after just passing through a previous decade of the 1990s short of cash, owing to the “Peace Dividend” after the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Because of world-wide economic difficulties, there is every reason to consider that we are entering another decade where defense funds will be sparse and only the most urgent immediate requirements will be funded. This likely will not involve long range and costly weapons programs that only produce equipment for some far-off obscure threat.