November 12, 2015

Similar Canadian & Australian Sub Experiences - Victoria/Upholder Class




Cross-section diagram courtesy Victoria Class Submarines - With Focus on the Electronics Fit a website with a huge amount of Victoria class information and many photos. (Much larger image is here).
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In the area of submarines the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) has much in common with the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). 

The UK Royal Navy (RN) submarine service exerted/exerts a lasting influence on the RCN and RAN due to: 

-  extensive training in and around the UK on Oberon class submarines, on earlier UK submarines and for RCN only on the Victoria/Upholder class 

-  using almost identical equipment (the Oberon subs) for decades in all three navies

-  widespread secondments of officers and maybe some crew between these navies (sometimes on UK SSNs) and

-  immigration of some RN officers and crew into the RAN (and probably the RCN).

Having a great power developing, using and relying on SSKs is beneficial for SSK users like Canada and Australia. Hence the UK's Oberon served Canada and Australia well. Notably Germany and Japan have maintained conventional submarine only navies without nuclear distractions or diluting effort into SSNs…


Canada's 3 Oberons ("oboats") Commissioned 1965, 67 and 68. 2 "paid off" in 1998 and last in 2000. (Photo courtesy Corvus and RCN via Haze Gray (another comprehensive website!)). Meanwile first of 6 Australian Oberons commissioned from 1967, last one decommissioned 2000 (details from Submarine Institute of Australia and aussubs100)

Following decommissioning of the Oberons from the RCN and RAN (in 2000 for both navies) both navies experienced years of mechanical/maintenance troubles with their replacement submarines Victoria and Collins respectively. Another similarity may be availability. For Australia 2 to 3 Collins might be available due to limited crew numbers. Of Canada’s four Victorias maybe 2 to 3 available at any one time?
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Victoria (ex Upholder) class submarine. The hull similarity to a Russian Kilo submarine is uncanny (other than the Victoria's upper cruciform tail plane). Perhaps some good espionage against Russia occurred? (Photo courtesy Gasengi dot-com)
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Canada operates four Victoria class diesel electric submarines SSKs (no AIP) designed by the UK in the 1970s, built by Vickers in the UK 1980s, commissioned into the the RN as Upholder class 1990-94. End of Cold War in early 1990s made them Peace Dividend Surplus by 1994. Bought be Canada 1998, recommissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy 2000-. 

Specifications include: 2,200 tons (surfaced) 2,400 tons (submerged), Complement 48, 8,000 nm range. 6 torpedo tubes with 18 Mark 48 HWT (probably mine capable)


Canada's submarine bases are within two Canadian Forces Bases (CFBs). Two subs are based on left/Pacific at CFB Esquimalt (on the Strait of Juan de Fuca (who had an exciting life :). The Atlantic base is at CFB Halifax at right.
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HMCS Victoria (operationaland Chicoutimi (operationaloperate out of Canadian Forces Base CFB Esquimalt, British Columbia Canada as part of the Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) fleet in the Pacific Ocean.

HMCS Windsor (operational) and Corner Brook (in Extended Docking Work Period (EDWP) until 2017are based at CFB Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and operate in the Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT) Fleet for operations in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

Professor Paul Mitchell, October 27 2015, has produced and excellent essay on life in a submarine https://www.cdainstitute.ca/en/blog/entry/navies-narratives-and-canada-s-submarine-fleet This and the Canadian operating environment will appear next week on Submarine Matters.

Question: Have there been many "near misses" of being stuck under the ice?

Pete

21 comments:

Nicky said...

Looks like Thailand or the Philippines lucked out on this. Columbia is about to get two Type 206 and I wonder how many are left for sale.

Columbian Navy Acquires Two Subs From Germany
http://navaltoday.com/2015/11/12/columbian-navy-acquires-two-subs-from-germany/

Nicky said...

Hi Pete,
This is why For Canada, I think they need to get an SSK that can sail under the Ice pack and Punch a hole through an Ice pack when needed.

Nicky said...

Hi pete,
Check out this article

The Master Plan to Upgrade Taiwan's Military: New Submarines
http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-master-plan-upgrade-taiwans-military-new-submarines-14327?page=show

What's your opinion if Taiwan took the blueprints they own on the Zwaardvis-class submarines and built an enlarged Zwaardvis-class submarines with diesels or AIP.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky [yr Nov 13, 2:00AM]

Re Columbia's lucky 206s. I'll turn this event into an article today. I have a theory :)

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky

[yr Nov 13, 2:23AM] Certainly if there is a pressing reason to punch through the ice (and no war or nasty Russians around) such exposure might be worth it. A sub doesn't want to lose its stealth unnecessarily. An AIP SSK would be an improvement.

If Canada wants to show the flag, like US and Russian SSNs have done near the North Pole, it might be safer to use an icebreaker ship in Summer.

I was under the impression Canada may not want a replacement sub - especially under the centrist Trudeau. But then the new Canuck Defence Minister, Harjit Sajjan, is an ex-professional soldier, a Sikh (which Yanks would be sure to stereotype as Muslim). Sikhs are known as a "martial race" in India.

I'm so confused.

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky [yr Nov 13, 7:53AM]

The article "Master Plan to Upgrade Taiwan's Military: New Submarines"
http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-master-plan-upgrade-taiwans-military-new-submarines-14327?page=show is pretty much the Taiwan sub debate for the last 2 decades.

On "What's your opinion if Taiwan took the blueprints they own on the Zwaardvis-class submarines and built an enlarged Zwaardvis-class submarines with diesels or AIP."

It is very difficult to build subs even with blueprints - only great powers may have done it with full sized subs.

Even harder to enlarge an existing design. The Collins was an enlargement and even with massive help from experienced Sweden the Collins had major problems. Also modern components like electronics and weapons need to be imported.

If Taiwan wants help from SSK building states it needs to by thinking and offering $10s Billions not mere 100s millions. Given China's threatened trade sanctions it has to be worth SSK building countries' while.

Regards

Pete

Nicky said...

HI Pete,
As for Canada, the reason why they are looking for New Submarines is because the Victoria class SSK's are getting very expensive to operate and maintain. ON top of that, they don't make the spare parts for the Victoria class SSK anymore. Operationally, they are very limited and can't even sail under the Ice pack. Which is why Canada is limited to the entrance to the Ice pack.

That's why Pete, some in Canada are looking to replace the Victoria class SSK with either the Type 214, Type 218, Scorpene class SSK or A-26 class SSK. They want to get rid of the because of the high cost of operating and maintaining them and with the New Prime minister and Defense Minister, that might happen. That on top of the fact that the New Prime minister and Defense Minister has made rebuilding the Canadian Navy a top Priority.

As for Taiwan, I do think they can build the Zwaardvis-class submarines, which is essentially a version of the Barbel class SSK. They just need to import the skill sets and technical help from America. Though I think the US should give Taiwan the rights to build the Barbel class SSK and give them the technical help on building them.

As for the Type 206 going to Columbia, how many are they getting and how many are left, if Thailand wants some.

Anonymous said...

There are many Sikhs serving in the US armed forces

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky

The China reality may stone-wall (as it has done for 2 decades) what you think about Taiwan.

I suggest you do some research on how many 206s are left.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [Nov 14, 6:11AM]

True that there are many Sikhs in western armed forces but for some less enlightened authorities in the US this sought of thing may happen:

A memorable scene from the movie "Inside Man" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k4qGUgXfXw

Regards

Pete

MHalblaub said...

Dear Nicky,
There are no 206 left.
Check the German Wikipedia.

Regards,
MHalblaub

Nicky said...

Hi Pete,
Here's my question. What do you think would replace the Victoria class SSK. I am thinking that since Nukes are out of the Question for Canada. I am thinking that Canada can go the same way with Australia on their New Submarines or they have options such as Type 214 SSK, Type 218SG SSK, A-26 SSK, S-80 SSK, Scorpene class SSK, or the Shortfin Barracuda SSK. What's your opinion on what Canada's next Submarine should be?

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky [Nov 16, 2:48AM]

Scorpene and 214 too small, S-80 untested.

Canada may want to receive 4 medium-large SSKs by the late 2020s. Whoever wins the Australian future sub competition may be well placed to develop a sub for Australia's and Canada's similar long distance long submerged requirements (so good LIB and/or AIP performance needed). So that may mean Soryu, 216 or 218 or Shortfin.

Regards

Pete

Nicky said...

Hi Pete,
I though the Scorpene and Type 214 were Viable for Canada. How come your saying otherwise. What about the Soryu, Type 216, Type 218 or Shortfin? are they viable for Canada

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky

Scorpene and 214 may be acceptable but I think Canada's next subs will have a higher crew, distance, endurance/mission length and UUVs workload as the Arctic melts. This Arctic melt will make for more usable (non-ice) ocean, more Kilo and Lada SSKs being active, more all year shipping lanes, more oil and economic value overall in Arctic .

Hence I've indicated [November 16, 2015 at 11:34 AM] which larger SSKs may be more useful for Canada. 218 may be best.

I'll do an Article on Canada later this week.

Regards

Pete

Brad Johnson said...

I was under the impression Canada may not want a replacement sub - especially under the centrist Trudeau...I'm so confused.
Trudeau did make three commitments that point to a strong military, one he plans to operate a deficit budget, this is aimed at rebuilding infrastructure but the need to balance budgets is what has resulted in painful military cuts in the past. Two, he has committed to current defence spending levels plus planed increases, three he plans to opt for a cheaper fighter aircraft than the F-35 so those funds can be diverted to the Navy.
Does this mean that a replacement for the Victoria Class will be sought after, not necessarily but the 1.5 billion dollar planned upfit (more than double what the subs were bought for) for the subs looks to be safe.
This upfit should keep the subs tip top until 2025 or so.
At that point I am not sure, the media and public perception are irrationally hostile towards submarines. The Rideau Institute (a leftest thinktank) takes extra pleasure deriding them.
Another problem is many other military acquisitions will come due in the 2025 time frame, such as the big ticket F-18, FWSAR and frigate/destroyer replacements.
Canada's and Australia's submarine requirements are very similar (other than Arctic ice AIP) hopefully a success for Australia on that front will make it easy for Canada to make a follow on order.
I still have hope will acquire SSNs but that is probably an unnecessary distraction as that pursuit nearly ended our sub program last time. If Canada's experience is any guide the likely-hood of Australia getting Virginia Class SSNs is only slightly north of zero. Any semi-serious talk of this by the US is more likely to be a bargaining chip to be traded with the Chinese or the Indonesians.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Brad Johnson

Yes Trudeau sounds a realist-moderate, with the advantage of having a Defence Minister with experience in the armed forces. I wonder, in view of the Paris bombing, whether Trudeau will go through with the partial Canadian pull-out of Iraq-Syria aerial activity. Also the US may ultimately force Canada to buy the F-35s. The Super Hornet's may be a more economical buy if Boeing are still building and supporting them.

Australia's has very much benefitted from buying the (on time, on budget) Super Hornets as a follow-on to the original Hornets.

Australia built and is over-maintaining the Collins subs for $$Billions more than the Victorias - so we've suffered more than Canada :( Australia may well repeat the orphan-lemon sub experience with the high risk very large sub.

I can see Canada's military acquisitions crunch is also like Australia's with Australia funding the final two Destroyers, F-35s, 6-8 Subs, 8 Frigates and 8-10 "Corvettes" all in the same 10 year (around 2025) window. Throw in Syria-Iraq war fighting.

On similar sub requirements a gradual rise of territorial/resource interest in Antarctica may stretch new Australian sub requirements to under-ice capability - hence AIP might be helpful.

It would be useful if Canada eventually bought the subs that Australia chooses to spread out the downstream development cost burden and to avoid "orphan-itis" (new word :). US or French SSNs may be reasonable if the strategic threat sufficiently rises - especially Russia (for Canada) and China (for Australia)

I'm doing an article on Canada strategic in a couple of days.

Regards

Pete

Brad Johnson said...


Fingers crossed Trudeau isn't a repeat of Chretien/Martin Liberal government for the military, my previous post outlines good reasons to be optimistic but only time will tell. Trudeau only mentioned pulling out the F-18s, the Polaris refueling tanker, two Aurora patrol craft and embedded "trainers" as far as I know are staying.
I doubt the F-35 will be the purchase, but Chretien ended up with EH101 SAR Helicopters after keeping his big campaign promise to cancel that deal. The difference there is there really wasn't much alternative to the EH101, the Rafale and F-18SH are excellent alternatives to the F-35.
Hopefully we go with the Superhornets like Australia, the Rafale has some advantages but a deal to get them will take 10 years to figure out, we could put an order for Superhornets today and have a wing of them by the end of next year.
Yes, I have read about the ordeal the Collins Class has been, it is amazing how many Canadians are absolutely convinced the Upholders were a rip off. The reality is the Upholders cost Canada practically nothing, the initial cost was a horse trade for leasing the subs in exchange for a base lease for Britain, zero dollars exchanged. The end of lease price was one dollar (or one pound, I am not sure). Most of the rest of the cost were funds that would have been allocated to the Oberons anyway.
This is not to say there have not been problems, but I have some sympathy for the position of the British. Yes, their mothball procedures left something to be desired, yes there were some deficiencies in their construction (notably the wiring insulation, at least partially to blame for the tragic fire on the Chicoutimi), but they offered these subs back when they were still in operation. When Canada delayed acquiring them for the better part of a decade, they likely did not allocate funds for a proper decommissioning, resulting in things like salt water left in internal tanks. Had Canada taken possession immediately (which like I said would have cost nothing as the operational fund would have come from the Oberon funds), the could have brought the same British crews that were on them to train Canadian crews. The refit to Canadian (US) weapon systems could have been a rolling refit, as crews trained on the submarines with the British weapon systems.
Overall all though I don't think the British are blameless in the poor condition the submarines were received in, but I think the bulk of the blame lies squarely with the unnecessarily delays in acquisition by the Canadian government, and most of the deterioration and damage happened during this nearly decade long acquisition with the subs rusting in wet dock. They could have sent a team to inspect the subs and make recommendations and pay for a proper decommissioning and storage in dry dock.
At the end of it even with the damage, these subs were still an excellent deal. Chicoutimi was all but destroyed in the fire, the other subs needed deep refits that the Chretien government was unwilling to pay for. Had Chretien allocated the proper funds, most of the availability issues of the subs would have been taken care of.
At this point the Victoria Class seems to be doing quite well, and is even scheduled for a $1.5 billion dollar upfit.

Brad Johnson said...

On paper both Canada and Australia plan on having some very impressive middle power navies in the future. Currently we are without a single functional destroyer, or a single functional supply ship. The 12 frigates were just upfit and pretty much tip top, with added air defence capabilities to make up for the lack of destroyers. Plans are big Arctic patrol ships, 15 surface combatants (likely a mix of excellent Royal Danish Navy frigates, 4-5 Iver Huitfelt-class frigates to replace the destroyers and 8-10 Absalon multirole frigates to replace the current frigates), 2-3 supply ships and a heavy ice breaker are planned. As a couple Mistral class assault ships and some SSNs and you have pretty much as good a Navy you could expect a nation the size of Canada to have. The problem of course is this is all just on paper and Canadian defence acquisitions do not have a habit of going smoothly.
As far as SSNs go, the US has worked extremely hard for reason I don't understand to make sure Canada never acquire them. During big push to acquire SSNs in the late 1980s, not only would they not sell their SSNs to Canada but they blocked the sale of British SSNs. This is in spite of the fact the fuel design in US nuclear subs and to some extent the reactor design is based on work done at the atomic research facility in Chalk River Manitoba.
They even found a way to block the sale of the French SSNs. It was the drama of the SSN acquisition (and the end of the cold war) that left Canada with no submarine replacement plan for the Oberons when the Upholders became available.
I don't know what the reasoning is for the strong US opposition to Canadian SSNs, but I suspect it hasn't changed. Roadblocks from the US combined with the public's apprehension regarding nuclear power make me think that permit of SSN acquisition is a bridge too far more likely kill the submarine program entirely than result in operational SSNs. Advancements in AIP technology make SSNs less important anyway.

Given that Canada's and Australia's submarine replacement needs are so similar, it would be a very positive sign to see some teamwork here. Canada just like Australia has a strong preference for US torpedoes and fire control systems on their subs, similar operational requirements and a similar relationship with the US navy, a combined effort on submarine acquisition would make a lot of sense.


I look forward to your article on Canada's submarines.

jock campbell said...

Hi guys im Australian and also lucky to be nearby where we build our submarines. Collins class has matured into a great submarine and it's replacement the shortfin will be a great replacement for Collins class.after the 12 shortfins their future replacements i feel will most likely be nuclear powered but that's quite a few years away. Shortfins would be great for Canada. Hopefully the Canadian government will look at acquiring shortfins

Peter Coates said...

Hi Jock

Yes:

- the Collins is reputedly more efficient and reliable engine wise. Though total annual maintenance for the 6 Collins-class may still be the astronomical A$600 (six hundred!) million

- it would be handy if Canada and maybe the Netherlands also bought Shortfins as these countries could all share Shortfin development and spare parts "pool" costs with Australia.

Regards

Pete