When Britain's Royal Navy deployed their new, Upholder-class attack subs they retired them in short order. The boats were commissioned into service in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993. So unimpressed were the Brits they tied them up at the quay in 1994 and left them there. They tried to flog them and almost shopped them to Pakistan but no luck. Then, in 1998, along came Canada and we've had them ever since.
Like the Brits, we too have left those subs either tied up or in dry dock. Think of them as Jean Chretien's white elephant. We have spent a fortune on Cold War-era submarines that don't work worth a tinker's dam.
We've been told, off and on, that, 22 years later, the navy has finally got them sorted out. Maybe, maybe not. The government claims we'll get another 20 years out of them.
The government may be right, judging by last year's results. Of the four boats, not one spent a single day at sea in 2019. Not one day.
The Liberal government's 2017 defence policy does not envision replacing the subs until 2040, but a written statement recently put before the House of Commons indicates the navy wants to keep the boats "operationally effective until the mid-2030s."They want to keep the boats operationally effective. They've never been operationally effective. What these boats have taught us over the past 22 years is that we perceive no significant, much less urgent, need for submarines.
Submarines have a limited shelf-life. When they're running and at sea, the pressure on a submerged hull takes a toll. Maybe the hulls of our boats have been spared that wear and tear.
The commander of the navy, Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, said that after some early struggles the submarine program has reached what he described as "a steady state," and he's convinced the boats can be operated safely for years to come.