Canada's navy blues -

Canada’s navy blues

Even before it was hit by a series of setbacks, Canada’s Pacific fleet faced questions about its readiness


HMCS Winnipeg never had a chance. The frigate was docked at CFB Esquimalt’s “C” Jetty at the Pacific naval base on Vancouver Island, during a calm morning in April, when an out-of-control fishing trawler, American Dynasty, slammed into her port side and sent a wall of water over her bow. Six maintenance crew, all civilians, were injured, and the cost of repairs is being kept a mystery—the same way a coach won’t say much about a player’s injury during the playoffs. The frigate was on its way from a massive, $250-million refit, a new lease on life that gave the ship more muscle on the high seas. Instead, the incident with the American trawler stopped HMCS Winnipeg’s revival in its tracks. Now, the ship is in dry dock for repairs. The incident defines the Navy’s streak of bad luck, particularly among a West Coast fleet that can’t catch a break.

Last month, the destroyer HMCS Algonquin and the supply ship HMCS Protecteur collided during towing manoeuvres on the way to Hawaii. The Navy is now without a destroyer on the West Coast and, in the 10 days it took to repair the Protecteur, the Navy was left without a supply ship. A pair of frigates are dry-docked as they undergo the same modernization as the Winnipeg. The HMCS Chicoutimi, the troubled submarine purchased from the British Royal Navy that caught fire on her voyage to Canada in 2004, is reaching the end of a long period of heavy maintenance. Until she’s ready for deep water, the Navy has but a single operational submarine in the Pacific. Meanwhile, critics say the Navy’s modest Pacific fleet of six Kingston-class coastal defence ships are functionally obsolete.

Illustration by Sarah Mackinnon

The Pacific fleet, even at its strongest, is made up of fewer ships than are stationed at CFB Halifax. Traditionally, that configuration has made sense, given Halifax’s proximity to the Arctic, the rest of the western hemisphere and regular overseas operations in the Mediterranean and Arabian seas. But in recent months, a simmering debate has broken out among military observers over whether Canada should begin to shift its naval resources to the increasingly volatile Pacific—where the Japanese, Chinese, Australians and Americans are all beefing up their fleets, and North Korea constitutes a lingering threat. The Chinese navy is training aggressively on a repurposed Soviet aircraft carrier. India is developing its first homegrown carrier, INS Vikrant, which will enter service by 2018, while it’s set to take possession of a retrofitted Russian carrier later this year. Australia is building amphibious assault vessels capable of carrying 18 helicopters and landing 2,000 soldiers. And while Japan’s constitution forbids the use of offensive weapons, in August, its navy launched the Izumo, a flat-topped destroyer capable of carrying up to 14 helicopters. Canada’s Pacific fleet, even at its strongest, is not nearly as ambitious.

The Navy insists it has no plans for a shakeup, saying the current distribution “meets our strategic and operational requirements.” But, says Sen. Colin Kenny, who chaired the Senate’s national security and defence committee for nine years, the recent collision between Algonquin and Protecteur laid bare the fragility of the existing Pacific fleet. “The Pacific fleet is severely hampered and hobbled until those two vessels get back and operate,” he said in the days before Protecteur was deemed seaworthy.

The decline of Canada’s Navy is far from a recent occurrence. Budget cuts in the late 1990s slashed military funding, just as the Armed Forces deployed boots and boats to fight terror in Afghanistan and the Arabian Sea. By 2005, with the Navy’s resources severely strained, Vice-Admiral Bruce MacLean, then-chief of the maritime staff, warned a Senate committee the Navy faced “an overall trend of decay.” Due to personnel shortages, the Department of National Defence (DND) had already been forced to take the HMCS Huron, one of four Iroquois-class destroyers that had been refitted and modernized, out of service. In 2007, after having been mothballed for seven years, the Navy used the Huron for target practice and a flotilla of Canadian ships pummelled her with artillery off the coast of Vancouver Island until she sank to the bottom of the Pacific.

Huron’s scuttling left a single destroyer, the Algonquin, stationed at Esquimalt. The Navy won’t say how long she will be laid up in dry dock after her collision with the Protecteur. And that leaves a serious gap in Canada’s ability to participate in any Pacific operations, says Elinor Sloan, a professor of international relations at Carleton University and a former DND analyst. When a destroyer is operational, the ship can serve as a command post for a task group at sea, thanks to its advanced communications technology. Destroyers also carry sophisticated weaponry, including surface-to-air missiles capable of defending a group of ships. Canada’s Halifax-class frigates are in the middle of a seven-year-long midlife refit and, as they come out of dry docks, they’ll be equipped with the same technology to quarterback a task group. But only the destroyers have air-defence weaponry at their disposal. “The frigates won’t be able to do that, upgraded or not,” says Sloan. The Navy could, in theory, deploy a frigate-led mission, but the ship’s reduced capabilities would put the mission at greater risk. “Let’s say you’re operating along a coast, and a land-based missile comes your way,” she says. “You wouldn’t have that ability to shoot it down.”

This all means the only West Coast ships in working order are the six coastal defence vessels. But Sloan says the 20-year-old vessels are wholly unsuited to modern naval operations. They’re Cold War ships, she says, crewed mostly by reservists, which were intended for anti-mine warfare. “They can’t operate in ice. They can’t go out to the end of the exclusive economic zone to enforce illegal fishing,” she says. “They’re not very quick. They can’t follow ships that are bringing illegal immigrants.” In other words, they’re coastal defence vessels that can’t defend the coasts.

The fortunes of Canada’s Navy are set to improve, eventually. In 2011, the federal government did announce a massive, $35-billion investment in new warships and support vessels set to roll out over the next three decades. First off the line in 2015, assuming everything stays on schedule, will be the Arctic and offshore patrol ship set to replace the Kingston class. In time, the Navy will build a new supply ship and replacements for its current fleet of destroyers and frigates. However, Canada’s shoddy track record of military procurement, be it ships, fighter jets, helicopters or subs, doesn’t inspire confidence that the new vessels will sail on time.

David McDonough, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia, says that, given shifting tensions in the Pacific and the spate of problems facing Canada’s Navy there, a moderate shift of resources from the Atlantic to the Pacific—including all of the Navy’s submarines—makes sense. In his mind, it comes down to mathematics. “If you only have one [supply] ship on each coast for the foreseeable future, and an accident happens, you have to rely on submarines for any expeditionary operation,” he says. “Surface ships can last 12 days. Submarines can probably last a month without any sort of replenishment.” Focusing any transfer of resources on submarines also helps avoid the political fallout that would come with moving surface vessels. “Each surface ship has roughly 200 people,” as well as support staff on land, says McDonough. “It’s an economic hit I don’t think Halifax would appreciate. We might be able to move one ship, or two ships, at most.” The subs, however, require fewer sailors—48 per boat—and less infrastructure.

Basing the subs in Esquimalt could also lend a hand to allies in the Pacific region and open the door to a permanent Canadian presence overseas, says McDonough. “Most of our allies in the region are increasingly fixated on anti-submarine warfare,” he says. “The U.S. would just love having our submarines there to train against, which actually could be leverage to allow us to base submarines at one of their bases—say, Guam, or Diego Garcia [in the Indian Ocean].” Sloan says Canada already stations high-ranking personnel overseas. She thinks a logical next step is sending a vessel offshore. “It would just be token,” she says, but such a move would jibe with a corresponding American shift to the Pacific. “They’re not moving their ships from Norfolk to San Diego, which would be the analogy of Halifax and Esquimalt,” she said. “They’re physically moving resources to Guam.”

For all the armchair strategizing, the Navy faces perhaps a more intractable question than where to deploy its vessels: how to reverse declining morale that has made it difficult for that stream of the forces to find new recruits. Kenny points to a “significant uptick” in morale among the Army and Air Force during operations in Afghanistan. On the ground and in the air, the forces were in good spirits. “In the Navy, throughout that period, not so much,” says Kenny. Canadian warships were active in the Arabian Sea, but with “not nearly the level of intensity” as the other branches of the military. “If you’re going to be a soldier or a sailor, you’re doing it for the action,” he says. “That, in my mind, was one of the principal reasons why the Navy’s also having a recruiting problem.”

Recent problems with the Pacific fleet have only made matters worse, says Kenny. When Algonquin and Protecteur collided, they were on their way to International Fleet Week in Australia, and slated to make diplomatic stops at ports all over the Pacific region. The Navy cancelled the tour, leaving hundreds of sailors onshore—the last place they’d like to be.

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Canada’s navy blues

  1. Dreaming in Pacific blue–see these posts at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute’s “3Ds Blog”:

    And this sentence in the post above is most misleading: “The Pacific fleet, even at its strongest, is made up of fewer ships than are stationed at CFB Halifax. Traditionally, that configuration has made sense, given Halifax’s proximity to the Arctic, the rest of the western hemisphere and regular overseas operations in the Mediterranean and Arabian seas.”

    The actual “tradition” is that during the Cold War the Canadian Navy’s most important–and vital (unlike today’s activities)–mission was anti-submarine warfare against the USSR in the North Atlantic. For which, under NATO, we had major alliance responsibilities and hence Halifax. That concrete mission is gone and nothing to replace it with any comparable seriousness has been found. And may not exist.


  2. Diego Garcia is a British base at which the Americans have a presence.

  3. Retire the fleet.

    • Every nation with a coastline has a Navy. If we retire the fleet then Obama owns your coastline. Period . Did’nt think it through that far huh duffus.

      • The US isn’t about to attack Canada… what year are you living in?

        • No but they could decide to escort or not any type of commercial shipping through the Arctic or B.C. coastal waters. The U.S. Coast Guard has publically acknowledged that our Coast Guard and Navy are better in the Arctic then they are The U.S. also has asked the Canadian Navy to be the lead of at least two International co- olitions in the Indian Ocean and Persian gulf . Task force 150 was lead by Canada and included at one time 17 different Nationalities that contributed to the American build up in the Gulf . France and Germany as well as Norway and New Zealand contributed ships under Canadian command . All of those governments condemned Bush’s Invasion but quietly sent their Navies to the show . Only because they were led by a Canadian Admiral . His Bridge happened to have access to all super encrypted American Naval communications . The only Navy that the Yanks share that stuff with .
          As I said every coastline has a Navy . I would prefer mine to fly a Canadian flag because American sailors can only handle about 3 Canadian Beer.

          • So you’re going to attack the US?

            Or are you helping them invade other countries?

            Maybe you’re trying to be teacher’s pet?

            Sorry….those aren’t good reasons for us to have a navy.

            PS….and since our navy keeps colliding with itself and with docks, I suggest you not mention beer.

          • Emily I do not know where you live but I am in Nova Scotia . A barely attached part of North America that was founded for Military reasons and still plays a large strategic role in Western security plans .You probably define security as affordable housing or more social workers . As if those aspects of Canadian society have been ignored . More importantly eliminating the Navy will not even pay for 1 week of social spending in this country and will leave us as a de facto protectorate of the U.S . Kind of like a cold Puerto Rico .
            Every nation has a Navy . If you are fine with the U.S. Navy being yours just say so and embrace all that comes with that . 243,000 Kilometres of Canadian coastline demands a Canadian solution.

          • I live in Ont, and spent 5 years in the air force.

            You are talking about the kind of world….and wars….that existed in the middle of the last century.

            Generals…admirals….are always ready for the last war. How about we stop doing that?

          • Thank you for your service Emily . I am an Air force brat with a step son in the PPCLI out west. I agree with your comments on the Generals although the ones we have in Ottawa tend to put most of their effort in to building empires . An Immediate reduction of 8,000 people in DND civilian and Military would cure the Empire building . The future of the worlds security however is getting Murky .
            The Yanks are starting to reduce Military spending while other Nations are increasing , Japan , China , Russia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia. For all the ‘Exceptionalism” of the U.S. they have made some horrible mistakes but they are a nation ruled by laws and overall they have been a force for good .Over the next decades the Americans will be retreating from world affairs and Europe will shirk even more . Canada still has an enviable reputation around the world no matter what the Harper haters say and we will be in a position to contribute to world security more than other nations in coming years .
            The world’s major security threat is state breakdown and the chaos that follows . Primarily in the Muslim world . The aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman empire is coming to roost . The British drew lines on maps that threw disparate peoples together for western expediency . Pakistan , Afghanistan , Iraq , Syria , are all troubled places that will occupy the worlds focus for decades to come . Throw in the rest of the Arab world and simmering troubles in Saudi and Persia and the soup is poisoned . Ironically Canada’s greatest security obligation since the Korean war was also to the only landlocked country on my list . Afghanistan . A world class Navy will allow us to contribute to managing the ongoing Sunni-Shi-ite conflagration but to sail away when needed .
            Bono stated back in 2003 that the world needed more Canada. We are going to be asked to get more involved in the future and staying at home will be increasingly more difficult .

          • I agree with a massive reduction of empire-builders. It’s a closed incestuous little society….which has led to ridiculous things like ‘stealth’ snowmobiles and being unable to afford [???] to replace Lee-Enfield rifles, and ships crashing into docks and each other. Afghanistan was a disaster, and in Libya the pilots went home to a hotel each night to relax. Insane.

            And one of our generals said aloud that Afghanistan looks good on the resume…..and it allows for target practice with live targets.

            These people have all lost the plot.

            The US has lost every war they’ve been in since WWII…and they showed up late for that after all the heavy lifting had been done.

            The only thing they have going for them is Hollywood….so that everyone believes John Wayne did it all by himself.

            Bono said nothing about invading other countries. We’re known for peacekeeping, not attacking.

            How be we mind our own business and let those other countries sort it out by themselves?

            If we want a modern military, we should have a peace-keeping force available instantly….for wars and natural disasters…..and a cyberwar unit.

            UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond says future wars will be fought with hacking and viruses ………and he’s right.


          • A peace keeping force is well armed police not a modern Military. DND learned a nasty lesson after General Dailaire was abandoned in Rwanda. By his old boss to boot .800,000 people might have had a chance if the Belgians had shown up in strength, something Romeo asked for but did not get. I say again that the threat to world security will be the failed state as the French just found out in Mali .
            Peace keeping has grown in to a tired hollow myth in Canada because we have never honestly looked at the wider context of how Peacekeeping happened. Russia and the Western members of the security council found peacekeeping to be a comfortable way to stalemate potential security situations while bigger issues were dealt with . A certain political party emasculated our Armed forces then turned that military weakness into a virtue by calling peacekeeping a better contribution to security. Our Allies would have preferred a fully trained and equipped Brigade group in Europe. So would the Forces at the time .
            Afghanistan has brought Canada back to the table as a serious partner in backing up close friends.Twenty years ago a certain Canadian army unit earned the nickname “The Tribe that did not sleep ” in a place called Somalia . The afore mentioned political party took care of that unit in a slimy way because downtown Toronto was horrified at two aboriginal soldiers methods in dealing with Thiefs. But SHHHH don’t mention that.
            Where did those Al Shabab Mall attackers come from again?

          • You are not talking about a ‘modern’ anything….you are talking WWII.

            Yes, Rwanda was a mess….that’s because the UN needs a proper military [peacekeeping] force….it shouldn’t have to go around begging for countries to volunteer some troops every time.

            Peacekeeping is…..

            a) Make the peace. This is combat.

            b) Keep the peace. Diplomats go to work here

            c) Observe the peace. Nobody move.

            d) Exit.

            Afghanistan has done nothing for us. It is a failure….in every sense of the word.

            You wanna use ‘aboriginal’ methods in other people’s countries eh? That tells us what YOU are.

            Where did the mall attackers come from? The US, Finland, the UK, here…….

          • Name a U.N. peace MAKING operation. There are none except the original Korean intervention . All Rwanda needed was one First world trained Battalion but New York and Clinton said no . If we were to follow your ” How about we let others sort out their Differences” then we get Rwanda . Our 4 C-17’s and other new airlifters could deliver that Battalion to Africa DESPITE the U.N.
            The diplomatic work has already been done by the time peacekeepers have arrived . The peace is there to keep . Should the U.N. intervene in the Syrian civil war ? And MAKE peace?
            Afghanistan has trained our people to move things and people and solve issues 14,000 km’s from home and given the Forces a sense of purpose. The wider Tribal issues of that part of the world were never ours to solve . Somalia was the failed state that provided the sanctuary where the western born Islamist Twits launched their Carnage . If Somalia had a functioning society would Al Shabab be a police problem or a Military target ?
            I would argue that the Aboriginal methods of Warfare that Kyle Brown and Clay Matchee were permitted to use on Shinaan Aaron was a massive breakdown in leadership . But the Inquiry was not allowed to ask those questions or the context that sent the Airborne to Somalia . Bob Fowler would have had to answer some policy and resource questions that did not have elegant answers. Better to drive a Knife through the best soldiers in Canada .
            Why was Serge Labbe allowed to take a Division HQ to Mog when the troops did not have M.P’s or Cooks and 104 degree beer in the desert. Serge had chilled white wine in Mog . Afghanistan perpetuated the US vs Them culture especially for the chubby ticket punchers from Ottawa but my solution has been stated.
            Good discussion Emily

          • Rwanda needed more than that…..but the point is we’ve been held back due to the times.

            Asserting ourselves would make a difference….we need peaceMAKING before anything else can happen.

            Times have changed quickly though….wars aren’t possible in the 21st century. They have all been failures…massive failures on our part. So maybe we’d better do something different.

            WE….CANADA…should leave other countries alone. The UN can intervene via the security council….THEN we do peacemaking/keeping/observing etc. No more country vs country.

            It doesn’t matter what the ‘other’ is….the Mongols,the Tutsis, the Koreans, the Communists….or Muslims. We always manage to find some enemy to attack….stop it.

            On our own behalf….defence only. On the UN’s behalf….peacekeeping.

            We have 200 militaries in the world. We need peacekeepers.

            Canada is good at it. Experts in fact.

            Let’s use that ability.

          • Em you have not answered the question .Who MAKES the peace, spills the blood and spends the treasure ? You have NOT answered that pertinent question .The Americans are done Intervening (Syria ?). You keep going back to an overly Idealistic view of how the world should be and not the world as it is .The U.N. can NOT intervene unless the permanent members agree.
            We do leave other countries alone but our closest friend and trading partner was brutally attacked in the largest Downtown they own . Very large ripples that are only now starting to dissipate. If the U.S. chooses to retreat, and they are starting to, then who or what replaces them ? The U.N. can’t and won’t .

          • I didn’t realize there WAS a question. Who always makes the decision to go and the rules of engagement while there?

            I’m realistic about the world….it is not a WWII world, and that’s the one you’re trying to run a military in.

            Planes and ships and tanks are useless when you can hack them.

            The UN has it’s problems, and people have tried to change it for years….but with 200 countries involved, it’s not easy. However, who said life was easy?

            The US got blowback from a century of intervening where it didn’t belong. It was inevitable, but the Americans as always never see it coming. Pearl Harbor was the same thing.

            Hell, us burning the WH was the same thing.

            Yes the US is retreating. Yes the UN will take over. There are no more empires and no more ‘superpowers’. We are all in this together. Globalization.

          • OMG – seriously we showed up to WWII after the heavy lifting had been done? Have you ever read a history book? You Canucks would be speaking German in Ontario and Japanese in BC without the U.S.

          • If you’re American, then kindly take note. The whole world knows you showed up late to the war when all the heavy lifting was done.

            Yanks showed up for mop-up time, and the photo-ops….and Hollywood dined out on the hokum for years.

          • Delusional

          • Factual. Turn off the movie machine.

          • What is the threat? Why would they ignore the US guarantee of our security? How many ships of what types do you want to protect us from it? How many extra sailors are required? How much more do you want to pay people to join and stay in the navy? How much must taxes go up to pay for this and the inevitably larger army and air force?

          • We have a coastline in the Arabian Sea?

            How could our navy be better in the arctic? It lacks any icebreakers.

            What would not escorting commercial shipping through BC’s waters result in?

            Support for the US invasion of Iraq isn’t really a selling point for a bigger navy is it? Wouldn’t it have been better for everyone- Americans and Iraqis- not to enable them?

          • I find this to be an interesting thread mostly because it has the rare sound of people with strong opinions debating and making their case rather than spouting empty rhetoric and insults, so I’ll join in. To the original point of whether or not Canada should even have a Navy: the vast majority of commerce worldwide is conducted by sea, both legitimate and in the black market. Canada’s Coast Guard is unarmed and primarily involved in search and rescue, research, and maintenance of navigation marks and clearing ice in the St. Lawrence. Unless the CCG is given a much broader mandate, losing the navy would lose us the ability to police our own coastlines, forget about defending them. Our ability to carry out humanitarian and relief missions would be reduced to the point of being worthless; for example the RCN was the largest Canadian contributor to relief of the Haiti earthquake(s), relief for Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, the evacuation of Canadian passport-holders from the Lebanon Conflict, and those are just a few examples from the last decade. Canada has never been a Force Projection type of navy, even in World War II our primary contribution on the high seas was escorting supplies to Britain. Without a self-sufficient Naval force we would be resigning ourselves to being entirely inconsequential on the global stage in terms of emergency response and humanitarian aid. Our DART teams are made up of highly motivated and resourceful people, but without a large intact runway on the other side they are unable to get to the crisis quickly enough. Your response to this may be: the US Navy is HUGE, let them take over coastal defence, maritime policing, and disaster relief. This would mean surrendering our individuality as a country. If we allowed another country to take over our defence and international responsibilities, we might as well start calling ourselves the 51st State. A modern naval force able to send at least one ship to sea anywhere in the world is essential for peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. Thanks to Climate Change, we don’t need icebreakers because commercial ships don’t run the northwest passage in the winter, only in the summer where ice is a navigational hazard rather than the entire sea surface. For the reasons I have listed above (and many more) I believe that the RCN is essential to Canada (as some may note I didn’t mention combat overseas because that has NEVER been the forte of the RCN including during WWII). A brief paragraph to rebut some of the points made above that I absolutely disagree with: Implying that Canadian warships collide because of beer is deeply insulting (and clever, I grant you that), anyone who thinks that the United States joined WWII a day late and a dollar short, or that they made no real contribution to the allies has never read history. When the US joined the war, France had been conquered, the Germans could see the Kremlin from their front lines, and the rest of the allies had been receiving massive amounts of supplies in the form of resources and equipment from the US virtually free to keep Britain afloat. The vast majority of the “heavy lifting” against the Nazis was accomplished only after the US military joined the fight and would have been impossible without them. Lastly, Electronic Warfare has been and always will be a factor in the national defence strategy of every nation, but it has yet to crash a plane, sink a ship, or shoot a soldier. Cyberwarfare can mess up communications, interrupt satellite signals, or give misleading information (as a worst-case scenario) but nobody can “hack” a ship because at third and goal it’s human sailors that run a ship, not computers. I look forward to dissenting opinions to follow.

          • WTF? Without the US, Canada would be speaking some language other than English (oh I forgot about the Frenchies) You people depend upon US tax dollars for your defence. (you like the Canadian spelling there?) Admit it…..your little country wouldn’t stand a chance against a well armed force, say……..California

        • The Russians live across the Arctic from us.

          What Geography class did you fail?

      • Why must the pro-defence spending crowd invariably insult those with differing opinions? Weakness of argument is my guess.

        • the anti-defence crowd (aka FT_Ward) seems to have no regrets about tossing out the insults towards the non-believers, however.

          • How about an example.

    • Emily. I read that you spent five years in service with the RCAF and I want to respectfully thank you for your contribution and service to our great nation. However I strongly disagree with your assertion that Canada does not need a navy. Canada, as a first world country, has a responsibility to ourselves and the rest of the world to be able to respond to the ever-changing threats that challenge world peace and stability. One day it may be in the form of disaster relief, another day it may be in response to a regime imposing their will on another country, and the next day it could take the form of participating in International efforts to curb the rise of piracy and human trafficking. We are blessed here in Canada and we need to start to take our international sense of responsibility more seriously as we continue to develop and grow as a nation. in order to do this effectively I believe that we must maintain a capable military presence across all three branches of our armed forces.
      I also understand that their is a large contingent of Canadians that do not understand, grasp or even care about our role in the International community or the responsibilities that come with it. They see the military as costly expenditure that does not pay for itself or make an impact on international affairs and is not needed to defend Canada. On the surface these people make a valid, but narrow and near-sighted point. Canada faces no real military threats. We are unable and unwilling to go anything on our own in the international sphere and our neighbour and closest ally has the most powerful military in the world….What these people have not taken into consideration is that it is not right for us to dump the defence of our massive coastline upon the American taxpayer. That NATO was formed under the understanding that all members would spend 2% of their Gross Domestic Product on their militaries (which hardly any members actually do). They forget that in the near future there will be artic sea lanes opening up that need to be monitored, that our natural resources, specifically the ones at sea need to be guarded. And that the military is a geo-political tool that consistently flies our flag around the world. It strengthens our ties to the United States and Europe and gives us a stronger voice in international negotiations with countries that we are not historically allied too. Asia is becoming an economic powerhouse and we need to maintain a presence in the pacific to keep our status as a middle power and to further grow our economic and political ties with the nations that form that continent.
      Retiring the Pacific Fleet….defunding the navy or any other branch of the Canadian armed forces is just not an option in the realities of today’s world. Canadians are a peaceful people and I would not have it any other way. However I understand that maintaining peace often requires the threat of force and as a nation, Canada needs to be able to contribute to any effort that is necessary to maintain peace and prosperity.

      • Thanking someone for their military service is an American custom, and I’m not American. I volunteered for it, and was paid….same as any other job.

        The rest of what you said is a recruiting commercial. If you’ve read this far into the thread you know WWII is over, and there is no sense trying to fight it again. Germany, Japan….or others like China and Russia who are still our allies, and are now trading partners as well aren’t a threat.

        Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran….aren’t about to attack us by sea or air.

        If you want a Peace force that intervenes for the UN…I’m all for it. If you want a Rescue force that intervenes in natural disasters….I’m all for it.

        But I do not want our ties to the US strengthened….and no one asked them to act as the world’s policemen. They are a damned nuisance and have caused more conflict than anyone else.

        They are the only country that has ever invaded Canada…5X!….and the only country that has ever used nuclear bombs.

        Their empire is crumbling….I don’t want us to go down with it.

        • And this is why you only spent 5 years in the air force, I am thinking you never left Canada. Please stop speaking on behalf of the Navy because it is obvious you have no clue as to what they do.

          • No, doing one term of service was sufficient, I didn’t plan to make a career out of it.

            When was I speaking on behalf of anyone?

            My dad was navy, I wasn’t.

    • Shake your head.

      All you ever parrot is retire or disband the military.

      Even in the face of Russia’s aggression towards the Ukraine, you STILL don’t get it.

  4. “Sloan says Canada already stations high-ranking personnel overseas. She
    thinks a logical next step is sending a vessel offshore. “It would just
    be token,”

    The next logical step should actually be to bring all of our high ranking people back here. We had people assigned to NATO because we promised to help defend Europe from a Soviet attack. That threat is gone and there is no reason (other than to provide the incumbents interesting well paid jobs/ holidays) to send anyone to NATO.There is no threat to Europe that the Europeans can’t easily handle themselves. Enough of multimillion and billion dollar tokens.

    • And what Naval configuration should we have FT or should we have a Navy at all ?
      Are you in the problem business as reflected by most of your posts on defence or are you in the solutions business? What would YOUR Navy look like?

      • Glad you asked. Three AORs. 8-10 Frigates. 12 MCDVs. No expeditions in the Arabian Sea. No subs. No AOPS. All peacetime operations confined to the North Atlantic west of Iceland, the North Pacific and the Caribbean. The arctic turned over to the Coast Guard. No naval personnel assigned to NATO or CENTCOM.

        We can afford and man the above. It is still more than we probably need but I’ve allowed a bit extra just in case. Any grand schemes are unaffordable or beyond the CF’s ability to recruit and retain. Given the history of DND procurement the navy will be lucky to get 8 warships out of the NSBP.

        • FT_Ward – that is the token Navy we have now! btw Operationally and in reality – you cannot have a modern Navy without submarines period. That amount of frigates is useless due to refit scheduling and workup periods, you would rarely have one fully operational frigate. MCDVs are useless – the CCoast Guard doesnt even want them. Also, that would be just great no naval personnel posted to NATO… we are an active member!!!! This alliance is needed and we have to provide people and of course SHIPS!!! It is a tough world out there! Much worse than your rainbow coloured shades will let you see.

          • Why is NATO needed? NATO faces no threat. It’s simply got too many cushy jobs for it to just go away quietly. There is no need for us to do anything with NATO. We could remove all of our NATO staff and not increase the level of risk to ourselves or our allies by one bit. Since cutting defence spending would help our economy withdrawing from NATO jobs would be a strategic plus to Canada.

            If we had 10 frigates you say we’d rarely have one operational. DND hopes to buy 15 new ones. Does that mean they’ll usually have two operational. If so why bother? How many ships do you want?

            BTW the “tough world” has never be less dangerous. The Soviets are gone. There is no industrial power threatening us or our allies. The Americans spend more on defence than the rest of the world combined and it”s allies spend another 25%. There hasn’t been as little terrorism in the west since the mid 19th Century. There is simply no need for us to maintain the navy we have and certainly no reason to spend billions on one for one replacements.

          • I rest my case. The U.S. spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined. Canada is our red headed bitch and therefore you can do away with your navy. We don’t need fiberglass destroyers backing us up anyway. Every Canuck I’ve ever met was a well mannered puss.

          • The only country that ever invaded Canada was the US….5X in fact.

            You lost 5X

            In fact, you haven’t won any wars….mop-up in WWII….and you ‘ve lost every one since then.

            Oh wait….there was Grenada.

          • World history is replete with the magnificent Canadian military victories……

          • Nope…..we don’t do the war thing. That’s crazy Murkkkans.

          • But you are correct in one sense. Americans don’t win wars in the sense that we go in and kill people and break stuff. No! We have to rebuild the place after we are done! This is in large part to the effeminate (canada like) liberal sensibilities in our country. Your navy is fourth rate and no match for a world power. And the fact that Canada has no indigenous weapons manufacturing capability makes it even more of a joke.

          • Yeah, makes real sense. It’s helped you a lot in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam etc.

            LOL go beat your chest elsewhere junior…..I’m busy.

          • Busy beating off to Canada’s contributions to the world

          • I would build 12 Ivar Huitfeld Frigates,12 Holland Corvettes,The 4 AOPS built will go to Newfoundland to replace the CCG Squadron in St John’s. Two Berlin AOR’s and two Karl Doorman JSS with 8 Soryu subs and 8 MCM. We can man those ships with about 300 less Sailors than we have now . Put 5 of the Subs out West to train the Yanks and evenly split every other ship to both Coasts . Build Two Diefenbaker Ice Breakers for the North and let the U.S.Los Angeles class Patrol the choke points in the Arctic. Flexibility and depth .

        • Fred, fred, fred…. How’d that isolationism work out for the US pre-1940?

          “The arctic turned over to the Coast Guard.”?

          So if and when the Russians go sailing around the Arctic, the CG can do what?
          Shout harsh words at them?

          “No naval personnel assigned to NATO or CENTCOM.”?

          So, you’re not a team player, obviously.

          Guess you missed out on ALL the coalition operations that have gone on for the last 20+ years.

    • Fred, fred, fred…..

      You missed out on the anti-piracy missions, obviously.

      Or Libya.

      Or Yugoslavia.


  5. For me, the answer
    is clear. Spend more money on the navy..a lot more money. We’re just scraping
    the outer fringes our capabilities in the Pacific, and a nation as wealthy and
    prosperous as Canada..with the worlds largest coast line cannot afford to ignore
    these shortcomings anymore. It’s a ludicrous situation and one that we must
    recover from with all due speed. Our navy must enlarge, and must modernize as
    much as possible in an incredibly short period of time. Pardon the pun, but when
    it comes to our Navy, we should be spending like drunken sailors until we’re up
    to speed. Canadians deserve better than what is being offered to them. Guarding
    our nations sovereignty, meeting NATO and UN obligations, and providing national
    security cannot be done with the meagre fleet that we have now. Our sailors are
    stretched to the very limits and we need to address their needs as soon as
    possible. This should be treated as an urgent national security matter. We
    cannot afford to ignore this any longer.

    • WWII is over….let it go.

      • Very good, Glad that you know your history, now you should be saying the Cold War is over (that happened after WW2 but your chair force and that answers that). We need a navy to patrol our coasts against smuglers, illegal immigrant ships and (worst case) protect us against hostile vessels.
        Hostile vessels can come here if we have no navy to protect us. What would stop a pirate operation starting on an unprotected coast? THe USA of course.
        But if we have the USA protecting our coast, why not our airspace? Our Land? Lets give our law enforcement and health care to the USA too.

        • The Cold War ended in 1989.

          Legalize drugs. Then 99.9% of smuggling disappears

          We have thousands of illegal immigrants here already….and we have plenty of room.

          Hostile vessels? Where from? Afghanistan? Syria? Iraq?

          A pirate operation is the same thing as smuggling….see above

          You mean the only reason we have a military at all is so the US won’t do it??

          Well the only nation that EVER invaded us WAS the US. 5X.

          We sent them packing. 5X.

          • wow, so your answer to smugling and piracy is to legalize it.

          • LOL you’d have to be insane to ban drugs.

            I dunno what else folks ‘smuggle’….but unless it’s other people, don’t worry about it. Globalized world.

          • there is some that would say that legalizing slavery would solve that crime too.
            The whole thing is insane

          • No, we’ve moved on from slavery. Freeing people is not the same as banning drugs.

          • “We sent them packing. 5X.”?

            Which five times?

      • The world is a dangerous place.

        Let go of your rose-coloured glasses.

    • Our sailors are stretched because the navy keeps looking for justifications for it’s present size. No matter how big it became it would never be big enough.

      • Fred, fred, fred….. The RCN has never been smaller.

        They are stretched, because they have commitments and missions to perform, and are short of people and ships.

        Try doing some research.

  6. Mrs Sloan needs to get her facts straight,the MCDV’s are 18 yrs old not 20. They are the most heavily utilized units in the Navy. They routinely operate in the high arctic as part of the annual op nanook exercise and have deployed overseas a number of times. They also are deployed for op caribbe each year for the war on drugs. The beauty of a mcdv is its versatility and low cost to operate compared to a larger ship. If the ship s so obsolete why does it routinely deploy for half the year every year?

    • They deploy because that sadly, they are all there is available. They are useless vessels. Not good a minesweeping (steel hulls and minimal equipment pooled around. A main gun that is from the second world war vintage… Also they are extremely slow with a top speed in the teens for knots… They were cheap boats to build (not that we didnt pay dearly for them of course).

      • If they are so useless why do they routinely operate for OP Caribbe, Fisheries, MARS IV, COMREL, NRFG? They have been doing that for that for a long time. Its true they were for mine warfare, but they operate route survey missions, a test bed for DRDC research and whatever comes down the pike. They are a versatile platform. Yes the gun is WW2 vintage but effective. The 15 knot max is actually very fuel efficient, try that with a CPF.

        • They have a side scan sonar (one unit) which they pool around the ships. 15 knots is a joke. Smuggling boats would have no problem out running. Who would they call in to continue the chase at that point? A sea king from Victoria?? No. They are never on standby for such a flight. Again the only reason why the RCN sends these boats anywhere is that is all they have!!! The real ships or too busy rusting out!!! This is all sad but true.

          • Have you ever sailed on a MCDV? Its true as a modular package the KINGSTON class has only one fitted 511 sonar,based West however they also embark several Kline route survey packages. As well they also can operate the DSIS ROV, and Phamton ROV packages. The whole idea of OP Caribbe is presence, being able to operate in close to land and endurance, all at very low cost. Just having a ship off the coast of say Columbia affects the movement of drugs. They also embark a boarding team for take down’s. A Rhib goes more than 15 kts no?

          • The problem with MCDVs is they can not even get close enough to launch their RHIBs. I did not sail on MCDVs – I am Regular force not a reservist. Any smugglers boat down anywhere would outrun the MCDV period. They are a token of a presence. A political: here we Canadians are doing something… When in fact it is a facade. The real presence of the Canadian Armed Forces in the war against drug smuggling in Latin America is the CP-140 Aurora long range patrol aircraft. The MCDVs are not much better than the reservist Gate Vessels they replaced.

          • I have sailed on a MCDV for OP Caribbe. We actually worked in conjunction with the CP-140.

            This is the second time HMCS Kingston has deployed on
            Operation Caribbe. HMCS Kingston , along with HMCS Goose Bay, conducted surveillance operations in the Western Caribbean from March 2 to April 6, 2012. This deployment marks a number of achievements for the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels including the embarkation of a United States
            Coast Guard law enforcement detachment team and the use of the side scan sonar to search for sunken objects associated with counter narcotics trafficking in the Caribbean Basin. Primarily crewed by Naval Reservists, Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels are mainly used for coastal surveillance and patrol.

            “Through our engagement in the Americas, Canada has played
            an instrumental role in boosting security in the hemisphere,” said the Honourable Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs). “By working in partnership to patrol the Caribbean, we are strengthening ties with allies in the region, confronting the scourge of transnational organized crime and helping to keep drugs away from Canadian shores.”

            Guess we’re just fooling everyone eh? and the funny thing about it was were were training regular force Cert 2’s as well and we routinely have reg dibs on board too.


          • Didn’t mean to offend reservist vs reg at all, or belittle the MCDVs job you and the rest of the crew did down there. I just wanted to get my two cents in that you should and must have a better vessel to do your job! The MCDVs actually are 100x better than Porte class they replaced… :) but compared to any similar vessel worldwide, the Kingston class is garbage. Sorry, it is.

          • I sailed in Porte Class and I agree. I would imagine A/OPS are in the future for us. The MCDV;s will probably sail for another 10 years though. Would like to see a fast patrol boat design though.

          • 15 KTS and the 40mm gun is a joke. Near anything can outrun them and there is no way i would want to sail on a flat bottomed, slow target. Give me a CPF anyday.
            Especially since we can go 30+ knots, have a CWIS and ESSM.

        • They are/were used for these purposes because we have nothing else as the larger ships are/were preoccupied with deployments abroad. The 15 kt max makes them useless as a pursiut/intercept vessel. The alternative for OP Caribbe would be to send nothing. Nonetheless, they still make an excellent training, Research, and Route Survey platform, which should be their primary role in the longer term. I am not sure where anyone arrived at the conclusion that they didn’t have the endurance for long distances.

          • Greg it does make sense to send the smaller ships than the big because they save money. Why send a CPF for a fisheries when a MCDV can do it for a cheaper cost.They already been a route survey/research platform for many years. Again the MCDV can do many things well. The 15 kt max is too slow for direct intercepts however that’s why they embark a boarding party with a Rhib. The whole idea for OP Caribbe is to show presence and work together with other assets.

          • a RHIB are short ranged, MCDVs should only be used for unarmed research and survey. Leave the combat and intercepts to the big boys that can actually do the job.

          • They have already been deployed with an armed boarding party and did an excellent job. RHIB’s are short ranged boats, how do you thing boardings are conducted if not by RHIB. . If the “big boys” were up to the job they would have been used.

          • Why spend money when you can just hide behind the U.S. Navy and the USCG?

  7. Only one submarine in Halifax and three in Esquimalt. Algonquin commissioned 1973. Joint support program cancelled. Check your facts.

    • actually three subs on the pacific. on Windsor remains on the East Coast

      • Exactly what I said.

        • Your right, that is what you said. This is what happens when you have lack of sleep.

    • I was just going to comment and point that out. Although cornerbrook is an east coast unit the boat itself is in Esquimalt right now.

  8. “But only the destroyers have air-defence weaponry at their disposal. “The frigates won’t be able to do that, upgraded or not,” says Sloan.” Holy cow, for a former DND analyst she doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about! The Frigates both pre and post HCM have an Air Defence capability…that’s what the ESSM, 57mm, CIWS and Chaffe among others are for. The Destroyers have an increased capability as they have an Area Air Defence capability…this just means they can push the defence bubble further out…but it doesn’t mean that our Frigates can’t defeat land based surface to surface missiles.

  9. “But only the destroyers have air-defence weaponry at their disposal. “The frigates won’t be able to do that, upgraded or not,” says Sloan. The Navy could, in theory, deploy a frigate-led mission, but the ship’s reduced capabilities would put the mission at greater risk. “Let’s say you’re operating along a coast, and a land-based missile comes your way,” she says. “You wouldn’t have that ability to shoot it down.”” This is a from a former DND analyst?? From official tech data RCN website: HALIFAX class frigates carry a formidable array of weapons and sensor systems including 8 Harpoon long-range, surface-to-surface missiles, 16 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles, a Bofors 57mm rapid-fire gun, a 20mm Phalanx anti-missile close-in-weapons-system (CIWS), 8 x 12.7mm machine guns and 24 anti-submarine homing torpedoes. In addition, the ships can defend themselves using infrared suppression, Shield decoys, chaff, flares, a towed acoustic decoy, and radar and sonar jamming devices. The ship’s torpedo-carrying helicopter significantly extends its range of operational effectiveness.
    So does Sloan get paid for her comments does she have a clue?

  10. One main reason why the RCN had or has a recruiting shortage is they are not recruiting! There is no advertising, nothing! I know people who want to join but can’t because there are no openings… The “shortage” looks to be organised to shift the blame for lousy management of the RCN and of course lousy procurement.

  11. Elinor Sloan the so called expert says our frigates do not posses an anti-air capability, this is in fact untrue a quick look on Wikipedia would reveal they carry 16 SAM/SSM. The Kingston class has a 5000 NM range, how big does Sloan think Canada’s economic zone is? Also the fact these ships are “crewed mostly by reservists” is a bit of a misnomer and an insult to those professional, capable crews.

    The story’s author Nick Taylor-Vaisey (and obviously his editor) need a little lesson on the correct use English as he writes “the HMCS”, really “the Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship”, that’s some good English there… and nowhere in the article does he call the navy by it’s actual name, the Royal Canadian Navy.

  12. God no, these unit sucks during the wars because none of those ships can support the air units…

  13. I don’t know why the Navy is whining, they all vote for Harper and his gang of idiots and in return they get the shaft, a shiny crown on their insignia and a trip down memory lane with the insertion of the word Royal in their name.
    Most of the military voted for these duplicitous clowns, most of whom have never run anything of substance in their lives let alone served in uniform. You kind of made this bed for yourself, so you should learn from your error next time an election comes around. You should but I doubt if you will, you’ll buy the Tory BS and be suckered once again..

    • Excellent point. Hillier even rejoiced in their election, until he got fired.

      • ” The best CDS ever” was on CTV calling for a 25% cut in regular force numbers. Even Hillier understands that what is planned is unaffordable.

        • Not ‘unaffordable’….just not a priority anymore. Which is odd given that they’re Cons who campaigned on the military and law and so on.

          • Unaffordable in this case means what the public is willing to pay.

            I suspect Harper knew very little about defence when he became Tory leader except that “true” conservatives were for more defence spending. After being PM for a while he had his eyes opened to the waste in DND and began to realize the practical limitations on the use of force. Hence- cutting and running from Kandahar and defence cuts. He might even have fallen back on the Liberal view that defence is really just about civilian jobs and regional payoffs. AOPS and CCV point in that direction.

          • Ahhh well in that case the public isn’t interested and isn’t paying attention.

    • It is kind of like this: they are the only ones that supported the Armed Forces period. PM Chretien gutted them in the 90s. Still the conservatives continue to not deliver most of their military promises…
      btw we all rejoiced with the return of “Royal” – It was a disgrace to cut.

      • So a person who promises to be your friend and then turns out to be a backstabbing liar is somehow more preionship.ferable to someone who states from the beginning you are not a priority and sticks with it.
        I’m not to sure I can follow that logic, but that does seem like a textbook definition of an abusive relationship.
        If a shiny bauble is what counts as progress to you then you are more like golum and his “precious” and it speaks volumes.

  14. I’d like to remind Macleans and all media of the proper naming protocol of ships. You can say the Halifax, but not the HMCS Halifax. That would be like saying THE HerMajesty Queen Elizabeth. HMCS stands for Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Halifax. Irks me to no end to see this mistake.

  15. well, this is disturbing! we cant have such a small amount of ship, and still hope to deffend the worlds largest coastline!

  16. Our frigates are quite capable of shooting down missiles. They carry the
    Evolved Seasparrow Missile which is one of the most modern anti-air
    point defence systems in the NATO arsenal. The difference between a
    frigate and a destroyer is that the destroyer carries an area defence
    anti-air missile system which has greater range and coverage. As well,
    two frigates per coast will have a full command suite onboard when they
    are modernized (Calgary is already completed on the west coast).Only the frigates carry the Harpoon anti-ship missile which is a capability the destroyers lack. While it is true the fleet is short ships, this is primarily due to the extensive modernization of the frigate fleet on both coasts. Maybe the author should do a little research before posting in a national magazine.

  17. You should try the budget cuts that are happening now. The government is hell bent on balancing the budget and it is absolutely sickening. The consequences are going to hurt for a long time. The CF just started to recover from all the cuts that happened in the 90’s and now they are doing the exact same thing.