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(mess deck lawyer stuff)
A Quantum Leap in Capability
The acquisition of four Upholder class diesel-electric submarines (SSKs), built in the early 1990's, represents a quantum leap in capability for the Canadian Navy. They are conventionally armed with torpedoes, have a larger interior providing better living conditions than the Oberons they replace,
One of their best features is that they are equipped with the fully remotely controllable Barr & Stroud CK035/CH085 search/attack optronic-periscope combination featuring a Quick Look Round (QLR) capability. In their principal remote-operating mode they are controlled and their output is viewed via a dedicated tactical TV console in the control room, although the capability for local control is retained along with the capability for direct-view 35mm still photography. The QLR facility utilizes a televisual sensor (with daylight, low-light and thermal capability) on a motorized platform atop the periscope. When hoisted above the water line it can be scanned through 360 degrees and retracted within seconds. The recorded imagery is then analysed in slow time, thus decreasing the risk of counter-detection. This is extremely beneficial in a hostile environment and is useful in surveillance of polluters, fisheries violators, or smugglers, to catch them in the act without them even realizing they are under observation.
The Upholders were each in service for approximately one year, but due to a decision to switch to an all SSN submarine force, the UK declared them surplus and placed them in reserve. Four submarines will allow Canada to maintain a submarine on the West Coast, for the first time in 25 years, thereby reflecting the tremendous volume of shipping passing through Vancouver and the increased importance of the Pacific Rim. By maintaining six trained crews, the navy expects to keep three submarines operational most of the time: one on each coast at high readiness and another at normal readiness on the east coast.
The innovative, interest free, eight-year, lease-to-buy barter arrangement is worth C$750 million (about 0.10% of what Canada spends annually on social programs), funded out of the existing defence budget, under which the submarines will be acquired without any hard currency payments being made. Of this, C$610 million will cover acquisition of the submarines, their associated trainers and simulators, crew training, initial spare parts and a technical data package. The remaining C$140 million (of which C$100 million will be spent directly in Canada) will cover costs associated with re-location of the four shore-based Upholder simulators to Canada, project management support and Canadian modifications. This is a bargain compared to the C$2.28 Billion (1991 dollars) it cost the UK to build the submarines. Present construction costs for a new build SSK are approximately equal to the price Canada has obtained all four Upholders for.
As part of the deal the government is waiving, for a term of 8 years, the approximately C$80 million annual fee the UK pays for the use of the existing training facilities at CFBs Suffield, Wainwright and Goose Bay, for training its ground and air forces respectively. At the end of this term, Canada will purchase the submarines for the nominal sum of one Pound Sterling per submarine. In view of Canada’s financial problems, and the self-imposed restriction of managing a submarine purchase within the existing capital budget, the purchase of the Upholders is ‘the bargain of the century’.
Additionally, the navy is undertaking a bit of creative accounting and retiring eight ships, including the Oberons, in exchange for the four Upholders, to save about C$160 million in operating costs while at the same time reducing personnel requirements. The reduced manning requirement for the Upholders is also a significant benefit in these times of personnel cutbacks. Their crew size is only two-thirds that of an Oberon and one-fifth that of a CPF. As stated by Peter C. Newman, overall their annual maintenance and operating costs "…would represent less than three per cent of the navy's $2 billion budget, and less than one per cent of total defence spending."
Vickers Shipbuilding & Engineering Limited (VSEL) will provide the spares and crew training with a spin-off of C$150 million in direct and indirect industrial benefits in Canada. Beginning next year, VSEL will provide classroom, simulator and onboard training for the first of four groups of 86 Canadian submariners and support personnel. Britain has offered Canadian companies special access to its defence-procurement programs for eight years as a further $100 million in benefits providing industrial offsets in the UK, while the US has offered to pay Canada to allow US forces to train with the new subs. LCOL Steve Campbell, a Pentagon official, said that this gives "…us an opportunity for our navy and the Canadian navy to work more closely together." Plans are also underway to privatize some of the dockyard support at Halifax. The first submarine will transfer to Canada in mid-2000 with the remainder following at six-month intervals. They are expected to remain in service until 2030.
Additionally, 11 new multifunction plasma display fire-control consoles will be acquired through Lockheed Martin Canada, two for each Upholder and one for the SOTT. The present Sonar 2040 Argonaut active/passive/intercept suite - comprising bow, flank, intercept and towed sensors - will be retained. A new Canadian-designed SUBTASS active-passive towed array sonar, effective in littoral environments, will be retrofitted to supplement the current Sonar 2046 passive towed array. Finally, an Electronic Support Measures system (ESM) is immediately required as the Racal Outfit UAP (1) systems originally fitted to the Upholders were reclaimed by 1995 in a fleet-wide rationalization program of ESM fits on all Royal Navy SSNs.
Other alterations would be limited to the rectification of specific shortcomings identified during their short active career. CDR King said "We would examine those defects and proposed changes to see which ones, if any, we wish to implement." This includes upgrading the diesel generator to improve the battery recharging rate. Future upgrades that deserve consideration include the following: adding the Sonar 2081 oceanographic monitoring sensor suite that is being retrofitted to the UK's Trafalgar class SSNs and updating the Mk 48 torpedoes to ADCAP Block III (Advanced Capability) standard as the US Navy plans to do with its entire 1,400-plus warshot inventory. The ADCAP III upgrade improves performance against both open-ocean and shallow-water (read: Littoral environment) targets. An additional future consideration would be re-acquisition of the current sub-harpoon SSM capability through the acquisition of UGM-84A sub-harpoons.
The 1994 Defence White Paper recognized that even with our present three-dimensional capability, "…the Canadian fleet is restricted to operations in ice-free waters. This limitation seriously constrains our ability to establish a desirable level of presence in our vast Arctic reaches." The under ice constraint can be partially addressed by the installation of an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) module into an SSK that would allow it to conduct limited under-ice operations. The most promising AIP technology is that of PEM fuel cells using concepts from the Canadian engineering firm Ballard Power Systems which pioneered PEM technology, and continues to develop it under a continuing contract from DND. This type of AIP allows an SSK to operate without surfacing for about two weeks at 6-8 knots without having to use battery power. During the past eight years the Canadian government has invested some C$35 million in the concept of submarine fuel cell propulsion.
World wide Submarine Proliferation
According to Jane's, there are currently some 487 conventional submarines world wide operated by some 44 different nations (not counting the UK or the US which no longer operate conventional submarines). The numbers of SSKs operated by NATO, Eastern Europe and Sweden only comprise about 109. Excluding the aforementioned and Russia, there will be over 100 modern SSKs in service in the rest of the world by the year 2000.
With an increasing focus for the Canadian Navy on operations in a littoral environment, the implications of this are that modern submarines, operated by increasingly well trained crews from Third World nations, are never far away from where Canadian naval forces might be dispatched on operational missions. In the littoral environment these small, quiet SSKs are extremely difficult to detect, even with the use of active sonar.
The Special Joint Committee on Canada's Defence Policy found that submarines can conduct underwater surveillance of large portions of Canada's maritime areas of responsibility, require relatively small crews and can be operated for roughly a third the cost of a modern frigate. Besides helping to proclaim Canada's sovereignty to foreign submarines, the retention of a submarine fleet requires allies to share information concerning submarine movements in Canadian waters. Aside from being the most effective ASWplatforms available, due to their ability to avoid underwater thermal layers, submarines have also proven themselves very effective in monitoring surface shipping and in sneaking up on drug runners and vessels fishing illegally in Canadian waters.
Well Balanced Forces
As reaffirmed by THE NAVAL VISION, "Canada's areas of maritime interest are extensive and our military resources for surveillance and control of the area are limited. No one asset type, whether a ship, aircraft, submarine or fixed surveillance system, is capable of handling by itself, the range of our maritime requirements." The idea that a network of fixed underwater acoustic sensors could provide adequate coverage of Canada's EEZ is a myth, as passive sensors have great difficulty in distinguishing sounds in the turbulent shallow waters off the East coast. The mixing of fresh water with the cold waters of the North Atlantic in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence produces an environment of numerous thermal layers which even active sensors mounted on ships have difficulty penetrating. The best platform in this environment is still the submarine as it can effectively avoid these layers.
The oceans provide three-dimensional space in which maritime forces can operate and manoeuvre, as recognized by the maritime doctrines of two of the world's major naval powers - the UK and the United States - and maritime forces must be capable of operating above, on and below the surface of the sea. The White Paper confirmed that: "In short, the maintenance of multi-purpose forces represents a pragmatic, sensible approach to defence at a time of fiscal restraint, one that will provide government with a broad range of military options at a price consistent with the Government's other policy and fiscal priorities." Therefore the acquisition of the Upholders fits in very well with these philosophies.
Mark Romanow, BSc., an independent Defence / Geopolitical analyst based in Edmonton who is also an analyst for 'VANGUARD - Canada's Premier Defence and Security Magazine'