The Royal Canadian Navy has begun work on finding a new submarine after years of dealing with the troublesome Victoria-class boats, which have spent more time under repair than underway at sea.
According to Canadian media reports, the service is now setting up a team that would be responsible for identifying the capabilities that would be required from a new generation of submarines. Should they be acquired new, they would be the first ones purpose-built for the Royal Canadian Navy.
The Victoria-, and the Oberon-class that preceded them, were both acquired second-hand from the Royal Navy.
“The CAF is establishing a Canadian patrol submarine project to inform timely governmental decision-making about a potential replacement class of submarines, and avoid any gap in submarine capability,” The Canadian Press quoted navy spokesman Lt.-Cmdr. Jordan Holder as saying.
There has been no mention on whether the submarines would be designed from scratch, or an existing design would be used, similarly to what Australia did with its new Attack-class submarines.
Holder added that the work that is underway would not commit the government to any specific course of action. It should also be noted that Canada still hasn’t allocated a budget for the submarine replacement project.
New submarines are seen by the navy as a vital means of protecting Canadian waters from potential adversaries, which have an increasingly easier access to the Arctic as the warming climate melts the ice, opening new routes.
The Victoria-class is currently expected to remain in Canadian Navy by 2027, thanks to upgrades and upkeep costs that are being estimated at over C$2 billion.
The navy continues to invest in the class despite numerous problems it has experienced since buying the boats from the Royal Navy in 1998.
One of the unluckiest was HMCS Corner Brook, which returned to water last month after spending seven years in dry dock. The submarine struck the ocean floor off British Columbia in 2011, only to suffer a fire outbreak while docked for repairs in August 2019. The boat was to return to service in 2020, but systems testing during the submarine’s time in the dry dock resulted in a ruptured ballast tank, causing further delays.