Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Submarines to Start Retiring in 2022 without Billion-Dollar Upgrade

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Submarines to Start Retiring in 2022 without Billion-Dollar Upgrade

Article excerpt

Navy subs need upgrades to extend service

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OTTAWA - The navy's submarine fleet will have to be cut adrift in the next few years unless the federal government opts to spend billions to upgrade the ships, according to internal Defence Department documents.

The documents show that the first submarine, HMCS Victoria, is scheduled to reach its end of service life in 2022. The other three vessels will follow until the last, HMCS Windsor, retires in 2027.

The documents, released to The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act, peg the cost of extending the lives of the submarines at between $1.5 billion and $3 billion, depending on how long the vessels would remain in service and what technical upgrades would be made. They don't specify when a decision needs to be made, but work needs to begin by 2020 to prevent a gap.

Military officials have recently praised the submarines. Royal Canadian Navy commander Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd described the vessels in June as "essential" to the navy's ability to protect the country and help NATO, an assessment that was echoed by defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance.

"As Canadians, I think we want to know who's operating on, above and below our water from a sovereignty perspective," Lloyd said. "The one strategic asset that allows you to understand what's operating below the water is a submarine. Nothing else can replace that."

But any investment is likely to stoke controversy. The submarines have been plagued by technical problems since they were bought used from the United Kingdom in 1998 for what the Chretien government described as a bargain $750 million.

While naval officials say they have managed to fix many of the problems and have started using the submarines in earnest, two were docked early this year over concerns about shoddy welding that prevented them from diving. Another had to be repaired after breaking down en route to a training exercise in Norway in June. …

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