Click here to vastly expand map (Courtesy Melting The Ice). Map of Canada with its 370 km Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundary being a particular interest to guard - even from American fisherman and oil interests. Russia even more interesting. Many chokepoints suited to Canada SSKs - perhaps Labrador Sea through to Ellesmere Island. From west, Beaufort Sea to Ellsmere Island and all the narrows in between. Protecting US coast (south of San Diego and Strait of Florida?) from Central America drug drop-offs by sea.
The following is a broad ranging discussion on Canada's defence concerns with some concentration on submarines, related aircraft and surface ships.
In the Comments section of Submarine Matter’s Similar Canadian & Australian Sub Experiences – Victoria/Upholder Class, November 12, 2015
Nicky and Pete have had ongoing discussions of what type of replacement submarine Canada might opt for or be suitable. On a growing scale TKMS 214s, DCNS Scorpenes, Saab A26s, 218s,
BRAD JOHNSON'S COMMENTS
Canadian defence specialist, Brad Johnson, added a wealth of comments towards the end of Comments section not only on submarines but aircraft and surface ships (including future Frigates that Australia may be interested in). I've added one or two words and links for clarity. Brad commented:
"New Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has made three commitments:
- strong military, financed by a deficit budget, which permits rebuilding defence infrastructure.
- committed to current defence spending levels plus planned increases,
- plans to opt for a cheaper fighter aircraft than the F-35 so those funds can be diverted to the Navy.
A replacement for the Victoria Class may not occur soon. A US$?1.5 billion planned mid life overhaul will probably occur keeping the subs functioning until 2025 or so.
By 2025 the hostile public attitude towards the Victoria’s submarines may still delay replacements.
Another problem is many other military acquisitions will come due in the 2025 time frame, such as the big ticket F/A-18 Super Hornets, new Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) aircraft 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.
Fingers crossed Trudeau isn't a repeat of Chretien/Martin Liberal government [1993-2006] for the military. There are good reasons to be optimistic but only time will tell. Trudeau only mentioned pulling out the F-18s from over Iraq and Syria. The Polaris refueling tanker, two Aurora surveillance/ MPAs and embedded "trainers" as far as I know are staying in Iraq.
Yes, I have read about the ordeal the Collins Class has been, it is amazing how many Canadians are absolutely convinced the Victoria/Upholders were a rip off. The reality is the Victoria/Upholders cost Canada practically nothing, the initial cost was a horse trade for leasing the subs in exchange for a base lease for Britain ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Army_Training_Unit_Suffield ?) 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 Canada's then existing Oberon SSKs anyway.
[on the Victoria/Upholders] 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 HMCS 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.[mid-life overhaul]
Destroyers and Frigates
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 [the last of the 1970s launched Iroquois Destroyers, HMCS Athabaskan has been having severe engine troubles], or a single functional supply ship.
The 12 [Halifax class] frigates were just upfit [overhauled] 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 reasons I don't understand to make sure Canada never acquired them. During the 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 Laboratories Manitoba.
They even found a way to block the sale of the French SSNs [smallish Rubis class SSNs used from 1983 to this day]. 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."
[See this 2007 article on the US opposing Canada's SSN search. It could be the US does not want Canada's Arctic oil interests too well protected by any future Canadian SSNs. Also SSNs might contribute to excessive Canadian independence... :) ]
In terms of joint Australian/Canadian future submarine interest (or combined buying) it is probably a case of our nations at many levels informally liaising, rather than any formal [Anglo-French Concorde :( like] liaison. Canada may have some buy-from-NATO realities that Australia doesn't have. Australia has Japanese interests that Canada doesn't have (to my knowledge).
So I think the RAN and RCN, industry organisations, scientific and research bodies can all email each other and meet at High Commissions (Defence and Naval Attaches?) when opportunity arises. Maybe open ended understandings can be reached but not firm agreements that may come back to haunt in the flexible commercial and public realms.
Australia's current submarine buying program (and positive experience with the Super Hornets) can yield much that is useful for Canada. Canada appears to be ahead in the frigate and offshore patrol vessel acquisition process - which would be generating many valuable pointers for Australia.
I'll write future articles on ice melt (and oil) implications, sub surveillance on drugs and Antarctic problems.
As ice melts the economic and strategic value of the Arctic increases. Submarines and surface warships can stay in wider areas of the Arctic even over Winter. Note shaded "Potential oil and gas fields" - Much Russia is claiming. (Map and commentary courtesy Business Insider Australia ). - see map much enlarged at http://static.businessinsider.com/image/53750c126bb3f72e37360e2c/image.jpg