Sunday, January 26, 2014
For some reason, Canada, with the world's largest coastline bordering three of the most important oceans on Earth, is fielding a fleet of four, 28-year old submarines purchased second-hand from Britain's Royal Navy. When or even if we'll ever have four operational submarines remains to be seen. There's some suggestion our subs may have a role to play in Asian waters in support of America's "pivot" to Asia.
If one of the Royal Canadian Navy's undersea craft ever does make it all the way across the Pacific to Asia, it will be sailing into a rich, submarine soup. From India to China, the region is awash in submarines and more are on the way.
For example, North Korea operates 60 to 70 subs, most of them older Soviet boats. South Korea has 15, the best from its Hyundai boat yards. Vietnam is about to take delivery of its second, high-tech conventional sub from Russia with three more on order.
China operates a mix of nuclear missile subs (5), nuclear attack subs (6) and conventional submarines (50+) with new designs on the way. India is developing its own nuclear missile submarine and has 14-conventional subs with more on the way. Japan operates 16 attack submarines and is looking for new boats.
The Philippines doesn't have any subs but is shopping for at least three. Pakistan has 5-French designed subs and is looking to build its own nuclear-powered submarine. Indonesia has 7 boats including three on order from South Korean shipyards. The city state of Singapore has four Swedish subs with three new German boats on order. Malaysia operates two French, Scorpion-class subs. Myanmar is said to be ordering two Kilo-class subs from Russia. That leaves Thailand which currently has no subs.
Let's not forget Australia which also considers those waters to be part of its area of operations. Australia operates 6 Collins-class subs and, like so many others, is looking for new boats.
Leaving aside the Russians and Americans, that's over 200-submarines, most of them far more modern and capable than the Royal Navy castoffs Canada operates when it can actually get them to sea. The idea of sending an old Canadian sub across the Pacific to patrol the waters from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea would seem preposterous.
This is not to say the Royal Canadian Navy doesn't need a submarine force. It does, and with the Arctic Ocean turning ice-free we need boats that can operate in the far north. The Brit boats might be useful for training but that's about it. Time we too began looking for something a little less shopworn.