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Building One Navy,Funding Another

May 13, 2010
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The Canadian frigate HMCS Vancouver (CPF 331) steams along side USS John C. Stennis.

Canada is yet another Western military who is finding its Cold War era building practices unsustainable in the modern age. This story is from David Pugliese, almost a one-man voice for his country’s armed forces:

As celebrations continue for its 100th anniversary, Canada’s navy has announced what defence analysts say is a major reduction in the number of ships available for service.
The move, sparked by budget problems, will leave the navy a shell of its former self, according to analysts.
The fleet of Kingston-class maritime coastal defence vessels will be reduced from 12 to six ships and three frigates, HMCS Montreal, St John’s and Vancouver will now be conducting domestic and continental missions to a “limited degree,” according to a letter sent to naval formations by the service’s commander Vice Admiral Dean McFadden.

We often note how the USN and the Royal Navy love their high tech wonder ships, they just don’t love to fund them properly or increasingly are unable because of the wars and domestic concerns. All this might be understandable, but really the type military should reflect the funds available. Too often the admirals’ wish list exceed available capital by many times. Look here specifically what is happening to the large frigates the Navy insists it must have:

Combat systems on HMCS Toronto and HMCS Ottawa will be “minimally supported to enable safe to navigate sensors and communications only,” states the letter written April 23 and released to the Ottawa Citizen on Wednesday. The same will happen to the destroyer HMCS Athabaskan, it added.
A key weapon system on board the Protecteur-class supply ships designed to destroy incoming missiles “will not be supported,” it added. Some anti-submarine warfare capabilities for the navy’s destroyer fleet will also not be supported.

So if the threats aren’t there to justify this equipment now, what promise is there it will be needed for some future obscure conflict? My point is, if the Canadian Navy is going to buy and maintain high tech warships, and can only do so by “dumbing” them down to operate like spartan patrol boats, why not just buy patrol boats to being with?

Instead build smart ships, smaller ships, cheaper ships, and lots of them, putting aside the facade of the Cold War, since the Cold War budgets are long gone and not likely to return.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    May 14, 2010 6:43 pm

    Christopher thanks for posting and standardization would save many billions, especially in R & D.

    I’d buy ships from the Asians, UAVs from Israel, and vehicles from the Euros! maybe a few ships from the Scandinavians too!

  2. May 14, 2010 4:54 pm

    Perhaps it is time to gain the dividend of common interest and standardize our naval equipment throughout the Anglosphere. This will improve our efficiency and present a credible counter-force to the growing threat from China.

    Canada could have done this in 1910, but let small-minded provincialism get in the way. I think that in 2010 we can put it right.

  3. Matthew S. permalink
    May 14, 2010 12:15 am

    “Look at the Type 45 – an air warfare destroyer that can’t afford torpedoes to give itself a modicum of asw protection, nor CIWS as an insurance policy against seas-skimmers, nor anti-ship missiles so that it can’t even self escort, despite being a destroyer. So many areas skimped on, so that we have a ship costing *maybe* a billion dollars that has one working 4.5 inch gun (and that’s an old one) and two 30mm guns for shooting smalls boats. It actually makes the LCS look good.”

    That is a good comparison with the LCS. I think it will be interesting to see if the old Type 42 phalanx systems are removed upon retirement and moved to the Type 45s. I really have no idea why either the LCS or Type 45 designs do not have torpedo tubes. Also I think its a big if on whether or not that 4.5in cannon actually gets replaced.

  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    May 13, 2010 6:21 pm

    Matthew wrote “could retire those old Iroquois class destroyers to pay to maintain the Halifax class ships?”

    I concur. I just don’t see military force as being an undue burden. Deploying ships without armament? This hints to me of obsolescence. I won’t deny the need for maintaining funding for defense, or problems with shipyards, etc. but these are all symptoms of the problems, not the root of it. Ships which are harder to build, fewer with each successive class, which we end up using to fight pirates in speed boats, or may be at risk from peer adversaries with cheap and plentiful missiles, this is obsolescence.

    I fear it may take a war for us to grasp the type of ships we should be building, but I am keeping the faith in the rising costs and shrinking budgets. The knife will save the Navy.

  5. MatR permalink
    May 13, 2010 3:24 pm

    Vic, never believe the UK MOD! ;o)

    It would be nice if the Royal Navy kept producing ships that are ‘fitted for but not with’ equipment if the equipment was an optional extra. Unfortunately, it’s often vital kit that gets left out, and it can’t really be because of anything but budget stretch because it’s endemic and getting worse. That goes for everything from electronics being cannibalised from ship to ship depending on which vessel is on exercise, to excuisitely expensive vessels not having basic, cheap CIWS. Talking to people who’ve served for a while, they tell me that training is getting worse in a lot of areas and the tempo of operations is unsustainable – just trying to do too much with too little.

    Look at the Type 45 – an air warfare destroyer that can’t afford torpedoes to give itself a modicum of asw protection, nor CIWS as an insurance policy against seas-skimmers, nor anti-ship missiles so that it can’t even self escort, despite being a destroyer. So many areas skimped on, so that we have a ship costing *maybe* a billion dollars that has one working 4.5 inch gun (and that’s an old one) and two 30mm guns for shooting smalls boats. It actually makes the LCS look good.

    You’re right-on-the-money about building ships we can add to (was it Scott B who said ‘hulls and air are cheap’? That sums it up nicely.) It’s just that the Royal Navy isn’t following that policy, and their media machine spins reality like crazy, making up sound like down.

  6. Matthew S. permalink
    May 13, 2010 2:51 pm

    Ok can anyone decipher the political speak in the article. I thought I had figured out in my first post but now after re-reading it I am not sure.

  7. Matthew S. permalink
    May 13, 2010 2:47 pm

    Very sad. I think the major thing I recognize with that article is the fallacy of “extended readiness”. It basically means the ships will be retired and only taken back into service in emergency (highly unlikely). So if I read between the lines it means the Canadian Navy will:

    (1)Reduce Halifax frigates from 12 to 9, 3 in “extended readiness” or basically politically decommissioned.
    (2)Reduce Kingston patrol vessels from 12 to 6, 6 in “extended readiness” or politically deommissioned? Mike, this one probably hits you hard.
    (3) Protecteur class ships will not support their 2 phalanx systems. So i guess this means the phalanx will be aboard ship but unused, with no ammo and not maintained?

    I wouldn’t even know what they could cut to maintain these. They only have 3 ancient air defense destroyers and a few other ships in the fleet. I guess you could make the argument that they could retire those old Iroquois class destroyers to pay to maintain the Halifax class ships? The problem with that is they have a giant land mass to defend and only about 80 or so F/A-18s for air defense.

  8. Mike Burleson permalink*
    May 13, 2010 12:54 pm

    Vic, I hear what you are saying, I just don’t think it sustainable. We have our own problems with warships the size of frigates, the armament of patrol boats, called the LCS. It just doesn’t make sense.

    I think considering the threats, or lack of, many patrol craft would be the ticket, plus a handful of large ships, just in case. Maybe if the Navy reduced their frigates, by half or two-thirds, you could afford a few ships, but with all their capabilties intact. That makes better sense right, and pay as you go?

  9. May 13, 2010 12:20 pm

    The Brits are building, and the Canucks are adopting, more ‘bare’ hull forms because the constant cost of upgrading is unreasonable. Both are also bypassing US Intellectual Property lock-in that sharply adds to costs. The hulls can have gadgetry added later, and the trend is to avoid US lock-in when possible. The hulls are actually cheap compared to all the add-ons, and the cost of IP-locked upgrades. This way they can still sail and maintain sea competency with long lead time to produce hulls. A nice side effect is reduced leakage of IP/tech to outsiders.

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