Sunday, March 01, 2015

There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

In a decade or so the government of Canada will be in the market for new submarines for the Royal Canadian Navy.

In the 17-years since the Chretien government snapped up four used British boats, supposedly a bargain, we haven't seen much use out of them.  In fact we've about doubled the purchase price in maintenance bills trying to get the damned things seaworthy.

One of them, just one, has actually fired a torpedo.  That's 68-service years, one torpedo.  But wait, there's news.  HMCS Victoria took some guest journos aboard, sailed out of Esquimalt, dived and demonstrated a simulated torpedo launch.  They flooded one tube with compressed air and "fired" it.  It's sort of like a giant bathtub fart at 60-metres.

Now the navy proclaims that it has three of the four nearly ready to go, even if they all can't fire torpedoes.  Still that qualifies the fleet as operational.

So, why are we investing all this effort and money into these old boats? Advances in submarine technology have overtaken Canada's subs.  They're not remotely approaching what is "state of the art" today.  They don't seem to be particularly reliable and their safety record is pretty extensive - just not in a good way.

Michael Byers has come up with the best explanation.  The RCN is keeping these boats active to keep the door open for the purchase of new subs, real subs, the working kind.  That's around 10-years off so the navy wants to keep the capability alive lest the pols decide we can get by without submarines altogether.

One thing we know is that there'll be no money for new subs anytime soon.  Not since the collapse of the Soviet Union has a navy been allowed to deteriorate as the Canadian navy has under Chairman Harper.  We need provisioning ships. Ain't got'em.  We need air defence destroyers.  Ain't got those either.  We need Arctic patrol vessels - soon, eventually, maybe.  We have a three ocean coastline and we can't put one task force to sea because we're flat out of the necessary ships.

Know who's building ships?  Vlad Putin, that's who.  And he's planning to establish a significant Russian naval presence in the Arctic where seabed rights are contested.   Sure, there's the Law of the Sea and all that but Putin has been giving signs that he might prefer "finders, keepers."

But we've got three submarines to keep Putin at bay, don't we?  Yeah, right.


Toby said...

Canada is unable to defend its own borders by land, sea or air. So what does our great leader Harper do? He attacks Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and he proposes attacking Ukraine and Russia. He's nuts.

the salamander said...

.. apologies re being so late to post this link.
Its a stunning read, that you may have already seen.

It just gets better.. and more damning as one works through it.. re Canada's Defense procurement.
But even more startling is that The Harper inner cabinet sees the related investment in military armament as a key driver of Canada's economy..

Now who would those 'tight inner Cabinet' be? Kenney? Unelected Ray Novak.. the 2nd most powerful person in government? Joe Oliver?

We know Nigel Wright is currently managing the flow of Canada Pension Funds into military armament, munitions etc via Onex.. and presumably our PM has read in the news or seen on TV that his former Chief of Staff who betrayed him.. sniff.. is actually working for him again.. in London.

My question is whether all these developments, seemingly done on the QT .. are election promises? Were they buried deep in omnibus bills by Flaherty? Will Joe Oliver sneak more into the current missing in action 'budget'?

Maybe we could get some good old fashioned information, transparency or accountability on these matters via secret squirrel Tony Clement.. or is this all minor evolutions hidden by Cabinet Confidence?

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Sal. Thanks for the link. A useful, if depressing, read. You yearn for "good old fashioned information." You'll find very little of that from a government structured on the Potemkin Village approach to just about everything.

Harper has dropped military spending to just 1% of GDP in his quest for a pre-election "balanced budget" which will be a conjuring act for a petro-state enduring collapsed world oil prices.

Meanwhile the armed forces lapse into decline. The army's stuff is clapped out from our adventures in Afghanistan. We have to cannibalize museum displays to find parts to keep our aging Hercules transports flying. Our CF-18s are getting very long in the tooth. We may, just may, be on the path to replacement of our Sea King helicopters - something that has eluded successive governments back to Mulroney. We're skint on both provisioning ships and air defence destroyers which renders us incapable of deploying a naval task force onto any of our three ocean coasts. Our old ships are crumbling into scale.

Meanwhile Vlad Putin is wasting no time militarizing the Arctic. Even China intends to station an armed icebreaker (the largest non-nuclear icebreaker of them all) permanently in the Arctic.

It's a dark farce.