Questioning Canada’s Naval Policy
W.E. (Bill) Belliveau writing in the Times & Transcript wonders why the Canadian Navy recently sought to dispose of its most economical and effective platforms:
Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDVs) are crewed mainly by Naval Reservists, not permanent naval forces. These are civilians, living civilian lives while pursuing a military career. They can be students, teachers, lawyers, secretaries, or other members of society.
The MCDVs’ primary mission is coastal surveillance and patrol, search and rescue, law enforcement, resource protection and fisheries patrol. MCDVs offer an economical alternative to major surface units for routine but nevertheless important patrolling duties, vital in maintaining sovereignty and protecting our shores.
I can’t imagine a more intelligent way to run a navy on a budget, the combination of reservists and low end platforms. At first glance, these Kingston class vessels might seem less capable, but as a network whole represents power and presence of the nation, and backed by land-based air, its abilities are enhanced considerably. Instead, though, the practice has been to spend sparse funds on high end warships like the Halifax frigates or the ancient Tribal destroyers.
As much as we pride ourselves in being a peaceful nation — we love to own the toys of war and peace — think of the monster Boeing C-17 military transport aircraft purchased by the federal government in recent years. The excuse for purchase is found in our readiness to assist in response to natural disasters and global skirmishes. To be a first-responder requires us to be independent, well equipped and prepared…
A good point, such capability doesn’t ensure availability. As we revealed early in the week, the powerful frigate based navies are increasingly frustrated in stretched-thin attempts to grasp hold of the elusive, impoverished, yet highly effective speedboats navies in the Gulf.
I suspect Minister MacKay’s announcement that Canada’s frigate program will not be mothballed is more about local economics, jobs and votes than it is about the protection of our borders or the balancing of our national budget.
Instead of constructing only a few high end warships, built to fight an enemy of another time, plus which navies like Canada can’t afford to even maintain, there is a better way. A decentralized, dispersed forced, equipped with low end assets, then networked to a few high end platforms would extend the power of the fleet, at less cost, while increasing numbers, and taking advantage of modern weapons, sensors, and communications. I leave it to Chris Rawley to explain. Talking specifically about the USN, but it fits for all:
Navy command and control schemes must be flattened and better networked. The more independently deployed vessels can operate, the faster they can react to dynamic situations. If the US Navy is to remain relevant against decentralized threats and still be able to cover a wide number and variety of distributed missions globally, it will have to build a larger quantity of less expensive surface vessels to complement the high end capabilities such as DDGs. These ships will be much smaller, less expensive, and hence more numerous than the LCS; ie, something like the “Fords” of the Henry Hendrix’s Influence Squadrons.