Navy Experiments with Shrinking Crew Sizes Ahead of Frigate Replacements

By Brewster, Murray | The Canadian Press, April 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Navy Experiments with Shrinking Crew Sizes Ahead of Frigate Replacements


Brewster, Murray, The Canadian Press


Navy experiments with smaller crews

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OTTAWA - Defence planners hope "X" marks the spot for the sailor-strained Royal Canadian Navy as the military has embarked on a set of experiments aboard existing frigates aimed at reducing crew sizes on its future warships.

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman has designated the Halifax-based frigate HMCS Montreal as a so-called "X-ship," which for the next few years will experiment in what's being described as innovative concepts and procedures for ships' companies.

The idea is to prepare the navy for both the new Arctic offshore patrol ships and eventually the replacements for country's patrol frigates, both of which will have smaller crews than the navy traditionally deploys.

The level of automation on the new ships will allow defence planners to make the reduction, but Norman says it means assuming a level of risk and potentially reduces the flexibility of what the warship can do on operations.

But it is also an important cost consideration as the navy plans for the nominally designated Canadian Surface Combatants, which are to begin replacing the 1990s vintage patrol frigates in the early 2020s.

"We like to get cranked up about how much the ships cost," Norman told a defence conference hosted by the MacKenzie Institute this week., (But) arguably over the 50 year life of the platform -- if that's what you're planning for, but (ideally) let's plan for 35 or 40 -- the most expensive component of that ship is the crew."

The average crew size of one of the existing patrol frigates is roughly 225.

The jaw-dropping price tag of the frigate replacements gives the exercise added weight.

Some internal estimates at National Defence put the total investment in 15 warships -- over 30 years -- to be in the range of $104 billion, including the purchase price and the full operating cost, including crew.

The Trudeau government will soon be asked to approve the strategic plan for acquiring the ships and to put some seed money into the preparations. …

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