Wednesday, August 06, 2014

In Canada, the end of the Terrible 20s are here today

You can look at what has happened to the Royal Navy in the last 10 years and you can benchmark what is happening to the Royal Canadian Navy as well if you want a view of a possible future if we don't get our navalist game-face on now.

If we do not have a maritime renaissance and can sell to Congress and the American people that the greatest guarantor of our economic, political and national freedom is at sea - Canada provides a boutique preview of where we will be after what we have been warning of here for the last decade - The Terrible 20s.

Via MacLean's Nick Taylor-Vaisey;
Even when the destroyers are operational, they’re more than 40 years old. The supply ships are about the same age, and the government’s not sure if it’s worth repairing the hobbled vessels. Canadian-made replacements are years away, mired in the morass of government procurement. Meanwhile, a punishing federal austerity program that has military spending firmly in its crosshairs is only adding to the challenges for a Navy that prides itself on accomplishing any mission asked of its sailors—even when it means doing more with less.

It’s leading some, including the man who ran the Navy until last year, to warn that Ottawa’s military priorities are increasingly out of touch. “I believe that we are currently out of balance, and we need to look very hard at ensuring the maritime side of that sea, land, air, special-forces equation is protected,” says Paul Maddison, a vice-admiral when he retired. He says his former colleagues deserve a bigger chunk of funding, certainly more than the 12 per cent of DND spending the Navy received when he was at the helm. “I think it’s time for a fundamental re-look at how that pie’s being carved.”

Maddison says the Canada First Defence Strategy, a Conservative vision conceived in 2008, is outdated, and insists that Canada’s national interests are “increasingly challenged in the maritime domain.” No longer should the dusty deserts of landlocked Kandahar, where Canadian military priorities lay for more than a decade of brutal fighting, rule the day. Countries on the Pacific Rim are shifting resources to the water and building bigger navies. Meanwhile, other conflicts, including fighting in eastern Ukraine, have the Navy’s attention. HMCS Regina is now patrolling the Mediterranean with NATO’s mission in the region. As well, the lingering threat of climate change has the potential to turn Canada’s Arctic waters into a shipping superhighway and raises issues of Canadian sovereignty. “This is not 2006, this is not Afghanistan,” Maddison says. “This is 2014. The world has changed.”

As it stands, the Navy is on the brink of losing its oldest ships for good. The destroyer Algonquin may never sail again, while its counterpart, Iroquois, could also be retired, and the supply ship Protecteur is nearing the end of its usability. The feds could inject millions more into repairs of the decades-old warhorses, but the several months of extended life may not be worth the cost.
This is what happens when you don't maintain your industrial base;
The Harper Conservatives tried to provide a fix when they launched a $36.6-billion shipbuilding strategy in October 2011. The program could eventually replace virtually every vessel in today’s Navy. The plan includes new Arctic patrol ships for frigid northern waters, up to 15 warships meant to replace the current destroyers and frigates, a pair of joint support ships that would take over from the existing pair of supply ships, and a gaggle of smaller vessels. The glaring problem in Canadian shipyards is just how unprepared they are for such an urgent and costly job. “There’s not much experience anywhere in government, and even across Canada in the industry,” says David Perry, a senior defence analyst with the Conference of Defence Associations Institute.

A generation has passed since Canada took on the construction of frigates. All the prep work required at Irving Shipyards in Halifax and Seaspan in Vancouver is costly. The Parliamentary Budget Office has cast doubt on the plan to locate all the construction on home soil, reporting last December that the feds could save $690 million if better-equipped American shipyards built the supply ships. Doing it all in Canada from start to finish is a complex process, says Perry. “When you’re doing a design-and-build project, you need to have a different relationship with your suppliers than you would if you were just buying aircraft off the assembly line,”
It all adds up to a fleet that features “essentially lower availability than they had in roughly 20 years,” says Perry. “The Navy right now is at a pretty fundamental transition point,” he says. “This is going to be the absolute low point right now for the Navy, in terms of having operational output.”
Sober reading.

This final point I didn't catch until the second reading. As regulars are aware, I have been chaffing for a long time against the "1,000 Ship Navy" the "Cooperative Maritime Partnership" or the "Global Network of Navies" - or whatever we are calling it now. In essence, because we are not investing in the navy we need - we are going to try to find a way to get others to do our job for us. Well, ...
Not having access to those types of vessels would hamper the Navy’s ability to carry out missions without depending on foreign allies.
So, if all of our allies are hoping that someone else will do their mission for them, as we are hoping that they will do missions for us ... which naval force of unicorns is going to poop out ships like so many skittles?

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