Canada's Plan to Replace Its Ancient Warships Isn't Going Well

The plan is at "very high risk" of going over budget and behind schedule.

Sep 21 2015, 7:16pm

Image: Flickr/The Art of Nature - Toronto, Canada

The Canadian Navy's $26 billion plan to replace its Cold War-era warships with shiny new models is at risk of going over budget and not delivering as many ships as planned, documents obtained by CTV News suggest.

This would be bad for the Canadian military, because our 1970s warships can't compete with other nations' cutting-edge war tech.

"It will be extremely difficult for these old ships, with their old capabilities, to do anything very useful in the revolutionary military affairs world we're living in," Douglas Bland, former chair of defence management studies at Queen's University, told me. "I doubt they'd be able to find a foreign a foreign submarine patrolling around our coast line."

"This is a highly technical business, naval warfare"

The Canadian government pledged to revamp the navy's fleet of ships in 2010, despite Canada not having any modern shipbuilding industry to speak of at the time. So, the government went about allocating billions to select shipyards in order to get them up to speed. Irving Shipbuilding—one of the firms that received funding—is slated to deliver up to 15 new frigates and destroyers.

According to the document CTV News obtained, the plan "may be unable to deliver the optimal number of ships with the capabilities necessary to meet operational requirements." In other words, the government isn't on target to delivering 15 ships. The plan is also "very high risk," the document states, of going over budget and ending up behind schedule.

"This is a highly technical business, naval warfare," Bland said. "You take a ship, you use it for a while, and then you put new stuff inside and it lasts a bit longer. But eventually, like an old car, you can keep adding on to it, but stuff keeps falling off. Eventually, you need a new car."

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Currently, Canada's ships are stuck patrolling the coast, if they're not stuck in a dock for repairs, since they can't go out to sea without support ships. The Conservative government wants them to be able to contribute to global conflicts.

Aging warships aren't the navy's only problem, either. Canada still uses British subs from the 1980s, which were flipped to us for a profit. Meanwhile, Russia continues to upgrade its own fleet and encroach on the Arctic, which Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to own really, really badly.

If the document CTV obtained is any indication, Harper's Arctic push isn't the only thing that could be in jeopardy—so could the Conservatives' vision for Canada's role in fighting wars on the high seas.