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Canadian Military Journal

Bridging Maritime Gaps

Martin Shadwick
Martin Shadwick
Abstract :

The 19 September 2014 announcement that four of the long-serving stalwarts of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN)—the Iroquois-class destroyers Iroquois and Algonquin (commissioned, respectively, in 1972 and 1973), and the Protecteur-class Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment (AOR) ships Protecteur and Preserver (commissioned, respectively, in 1969 and 1970)—would be paid off in the immediate future was far from a surprise, given the deteriorating materiel condition of the ships, their declining availability, and the illogic of investing scarce defence dollars in ships which, in any event, possessed little remaining service life. This was particularly so in the cases of HMCS Algonquin, which suffered “extensive damage to its port side hangar” in a 2013 collision, and HMCS Protecteur, which suffered serious damage in a February 2014 fire, and was subsequently deemed to be beyond economical repair.

Although official statements understandably sought to put the best possible face on the disposals—the DND Backgrounder, for example, allowed that the “retirements of these ships will generate some [emphasis added] loss in both capacity and capability for the RCN,” while noting that “these losses…will be mitigated in the short-to-medium term as the RCN builds toward the future fleet”—the paying off of these ships, so far in advance of the arrival of their intended successors, does pose significant challenges. Interim measures will indeed help to ameliorate some of these challenges, but there is no escaping the harsh mathematical reality that these retirements represent 100 percent of the RCN’s existing replenishment fleet, 66.6 percent of its area air defence/command and control destroyers, and—less obviously—a steep reduction in the fleet’s embarked maritime helicopter capacity, although, admittedly, the AORs and destroyers did not routinely embark their full helicopter complements. Expressed another way, the RCN’s destroyer and frigate numbers will decline to levels not seen since the late-1940s and early-1950s, prior to Cold War rearmament.

Keywords :
Bridging Maritime Gaps

Date Deposited : 08 Apr 2015 11:58

Last Modified : 08 Apr 2015 11:58

Official URL: http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/arc/index-eng.asp

Volume 15, Number 1, - 2015

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