Thursday, February 06, 2014

Canada's Lone East Coast Submarine Back in Dry Dock

If a boat is just a hole in the water into which you pour money, a submarine is a cavernous tube into which you sink fortunes.  At least that's the case if it's a Canadian navy submarine.

The Royal Canadian Navy's sole undersea denizen on the East coast is HMCS Windsor and seems to be in a similar state to its namesake city.  Windsor is part of a flotilla of crappy subs the Brits unloaded on us in a deal that must still have them rolling in the aisles.  They're all dogs that are rapidly nearing their "best before" date, the end of their service life, without every really being of much service.

Windsor was withdrawn for service in 2007 to undergo a 2-year, $45-million refit that wasn't completed until 2012 by a then swollen cost of $209-million.  According to CBC News, Windsor was scarcely out of dry dock before she encountered more, debilitating problems.

Shortly after the navy slipped the Windsor back into Halifax harbour in the spring of 2012, the diesel engine was declared unusable. The diesel engine is used to charge the batteries the submarine depends on to drive electric propulsion motors when submerged.

The engine failure meant that even after hundreds of millions spent on upgrades, the Windsor only had one working engine, which restricted the sub's ability to dive and manoeuvre.

The submarine's 48 crew members were forbidden to take the submarine from home waters because of the useless engine.

So now, in 2014, the Windsor is being taken out of service to replace the diesel engine that has kept her out of operational service since she came out of refit in 2012.   The navy types are hoping they'll be able to remove the defective engine and get a replacement in via a special hatch called a "Dutch breach."  If not they'll just have to cut the Windsor in half.  They're hoping the job can be done in under 8-months at a cost of $1.5-million but optimistic outcomes have not exactly been the navy's long suit when it comes to these boats.

Just in case you're wondering, the service life for the Windsor and her sister boats is said to lapse in 2018.  Subs are limited by the age of their hulls.   Canada bought these subs in 1998 for about $525-million (including upgrades), proof that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it is. Wiki notes that, during the 2007-2012 refit the hull was founded to have rust that would limit its diving depth and the navy had to spend thousands of dollars to keep pigeons from roosting in it.

Ignoring that these subs have never performed as we expected, for about the same money we could have bought brand new, proven, reliable, state of the art subs from the Germans, the Thyssen Krup Type 214 for example.

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