Maritime Nation Naval Issues Shahryar Pasandideh

Preparing for the Future: Platform Growth and Naval Vessels

A Halifax-Class Frigate

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) will begin replacing much of its fleet at the start of the next decade. To ensure that its fleet remains relevant over its thirty plus years of service life, the new vessels adequate platform growth potential must be factored into the design process.

The RCN currently has fifteen surface combatants: three elderly Iroquois-class destroyers and twelve Halifax-class anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates. The ships of the former class were all commissioned in 1972 and the first will not be replaced until 2020 at the earliest. The Halifax-class frigates were commissioned between 1992 and 1996 and the last unit will remain in service until it is replaced in 2033. All replacement dates are based on current estimates and assume no delays – an unlikely assumption given Canada’s procurement practices and the intricacies of systems integration on a new hull – and assume, of course, that there will be no project cancellation. Regardless, even in a best case scenario the last Iroquois-class destroyer will have served for an astonishing forty-eight years, and the last Halifax-class frigate for thirty-seven years.

How can platform growth be incorporated into the fifteen-ship Single Class Surface Combatant Project? To answer this question it is useful to look at Canada’s most recent naval combatant class, the Halifax-class frigate, and see if any lessons are offered from that experience. The Halifax-class is a highly advanced warship by any standard. It is, however, primed for a single task: anti-submarine warfare. The mission requirement that determined the design was ASW for the purpose of protecting convoys in the Atlantic Ocean in the event that NATO went to war with the Soviet Union. For that mission it carries an impressive set of sonar and large numbers of anti-submarine munitions