Another $465M for Canadian Submarines?
Canada’s second-hand purchase of 1980s-era Victoria class submarines from Britain has already reached a cost of $900 million. At present, the Canadian Navy is concentrating almost all of its efforts on getting the subs back to sea after a fatal fire on HMCS Chicoutimi in October 2004 sent the boats to their home ports as a safety precaution
Beyond the cost of getting the submarines operational, Canada’s Department of Defence could be also paying up to $465 million for a mid-life upgrade program upgrades to improve command, control and communications systems on the subs and potentially install new sensors and weapons. If true, this would push the submarines’ expected cost from the originally forecast C$ 750 million to over $1.3 billion.
Estimates vary on the service horizons for the used subs, which are expected to operate for 30 years. More precise estimates won’t be available until the navy is able to start operating the boats on a regular basis. There are also questions re: what the upgrade program would look like. Canada’s armed forces do not yet have any definitive figures for that either at this point, though planning documents suggest a figure of $465 million.
This could change, however, as the Navy is working on a new maintenance program that would get away from longer, full-scale upgrades and focus on smaller, more frequent improvements.
In addition, newly released military records show that Canadian officers were suggesting a seed funding request back in September 2004 so they could start examining a new submarine purchase. That successor for the Victoria-class vessels would still be many years off, and the target date for this seed funding is reportedly 2007.
Since their purchase from Britain in 1998, the Victoria Class subs have been facing well-publicized problems. One sub had sea water leaking into its hull. Cracks were found in some valves on the boats. Excessive rust was discovered on some of the hulls, while HMCS Victoria had a dent in its hull which had to be fixed. There were also general concerns about the quality of air in the subs. Another made an emergency surfacing off Newfoundland when water started pouring into the boat. Finally, an electrical fire on board HMCS Chicoutimi crippled the sub off the coast of Scotland and killed navy Lieut. Chris Saunders. Several other submariners were injured, and the incident remains the focus of Canadian DoD investigations.
Sources & Additional Readings
- Ottawa Citizen: Upgrades to subs could cost $465M – Forces already looking for replacements
- HMCS Chicoutimi: Canadian DoD Web Site
- CBC: Fire on HMCs Chicoutimi – Timeline
- Canadian DND, Navy – A Short history of the Canadian Submarine Service
- Canadian DND (April 6/98) – Backgrounder: Submarines for Canada’s Navy
- Canadian DND (Oct 1/04) – Backgrounder: VICTORIA Class Submarines: An Indispensable Asset
- Naval Technology – SSK Victoria Class Long-Range Patrol Submarines, Canada