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.