ARCHIVED - Royal Canadian Navy Submarines: Fleet Status

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Fact Sheet / November 26, 2013 / Project number: FS - 13.002e

Submarine Fleet Status 

The Victoria-class submarine fleet continues to progress towards a steady state where three of four submarines will be available for operations. This will include a high-readiness submarine available on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, HMCS Windsor and HMCS Victoria respectively, with a third submarine, HMCS Chicoutimi, available at standard readiness. HMCS Corner Brook will rotate into an extended docking work period upon completion of HMCS Chicoutimi’s extended docking work period. An extended docking work period provides the submarines’ 200-plus systems with the maintenance and upgrades needed to conduct operations on behalf of Canadians.

 The following table provides a general overview of the current status of Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Victoria-class submarines:

 

SubmarinesEDWP (Extended
Docking Work Period)
Operational PeriodNext Scheduled
EDWP (Extended Docking
Work Period)
HMCS Victoria 2005 to 2011 2011 to 2016 2016 to 2018
HMCS Windsor 2007 to 2012 2012 to 2018 2018 to 2020
HMCS Chicoutimi 2010 to 2014 2014 to 2020 2020 to 2022
HMCS Corner Brook 2014 to 2016 2016 to 2022 2022 to 2024

 

Information about the above table

  1. All dates are approximate as schedules can change according to the needs of the RCN.
  2. The operational period refers to a cycle of activities that can range from sea trials, defect repair, scheduled maintenance conducted outside of an extended docking work period, training, weapons firing and other activities through to full operations. During this period, a Victoria-class submarine can be at various levels of readiness to conduct operations on behalf of Canadians.
  3. A Victoria-class submarine is considered to have achieved operational status when it has been materially certified (successful completion of alongside tests and trials) and has been deemed safe to sail; manned with a qualified and experienced crew; has conducted trials and executed operations in accordance with their readiness status.
  4. The extent of a submarine’s capability is fundamentally a product of the states of personnel, materiel and collective team training resident within it. Once operational, a Victoria-class submarine will undergo a period of sea training to either achieve standard readiness (i.e. capable of conducting core naval training and executing assigned Canadian Armed Forces continental and expeditionary missions that do not entail the possibility of high intensity, full spectrum combat) or high readiness (capable of conducting the full-spectrum of combat operations).

Victoria-class Achievements

Canada’s Victoria-class submarine fleet has actively sailed since 2003 and has accumulated approximately 1277 days at sea as of October 29, 2013. The submarines participated in exercises at home and overseas during this time, patrolling our coastal areas - including the Arctic - and participating in international operations. Highlights of the Victoria-class achievements are as follows:

  • HMCS Victoria returned to sea in December 2011 following the first extended docking work period in the submarine fleet and has spent 260 days at sea since then. HMCS Victoria torpedoed and sank a decommissioned United States Navy ship during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in July 2012, marking a first success of this type for the RCN.
  • HMCS Windsor sailed from June 2005 to December 2006 and spent 146 days at sea in 2006 alone. The boat participated in a number of large Canada/U.S. exercises; advanced and improved special operations forces capabilities and trained with Canadian ships in essential warfare skills. Windsor participated in the first-ever parachute rendezvous at sea practiced with Canada's Patrol Pathfinders (Canadian Army paratroopers). The boat also conducted several sovereignty patrols off Canada's east coast for intelligence-gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance. Since returning to sea in December 2012, Windsor commenced its tiered readiness program - a series of sea trials and crew training to prepare for future operations. Windsor continues to conduct local operations at sea in order to train submariners on the Victoria-class submarine fleet.
  • HMCS Corner Brook spent 463 days at sea between October 2006 and mid-June 2011. The boat participated in various NATO and Canada/U.S. exercises, where it received high praise for its contribution as a simulated enemy in order to assist in the training of NATO and U.S. surface and air forces. HMCS Corner Brook deployed to the Arctic in support of Operation NANOOK in August 2007 and again in August 2009, where it participated in a counter-narcotics exercise and conducted covert surveillance patrols in the vicinity of Baffin Island. In March 2008 and again in 2011, the boat also deployed as part of Operation CARIBBE, a US-led, multi-national effort to interdict drug trafficking in the waters of the Caribbean Basin and the Eastern Pacific.

Status of Individual Submarines:

The current status of each submarine in the Victoria-class fleet is as follows:

HMCS Chicoutimi:

HMCS Chicoutimi was undocked and returned to the water on November 26, 2013, following the submarine’s extended docking work period at Victoria Shipyards Co. Ltd. in Esquimalt, B.C. This important milestone signifies progress to the completion of its deep maintenance work, which is being conducted for the first time solely by industry under the Victoria In-service Support Contract.

HMCS Chicoutimi continues to conduct system testing and trials as well as crew training. As part of the normal testing and trials regime, HMCS Chicoutimi will conduct a camber dive, so-named as it takes place in a protected, shallow area within a harbour known as a camber. This dive verifies the submarine’s watertight integrity and the functionality of its communications and other key systems.

HMCS Chicoutimi is expected to return to sea in early 2014 in order to commence sea trials as part of her tiered readiness program. This program will certify the crew and all engineering systems - including the weapon systems - with the aim of having the submarine declared fully operational.

The submarine will return to the RCN upon completion of its extended docking work period.

HMCS Corner Brook:

In spring 2011, HMCS Corner Brook transited from CFB Halifax to CFB Esquimalt in order to prepare for the submarine’s extended docking work period. This will be conducted at Victoria Shipyards Co. Ltd in Esquimalt, B.C. by Babcock Canada Inc. under the Victoria In-service Support Contract.

On June 4, 2011, HMCS Corner Brook ran aground while conducting submerged manoeuvres during submarine officer training in the vicinity of Nootka Sound off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

On June 10, 2011, a Board of Inquiry was convened to gain a clear understanding of the circumstances surrounding the grounding of HMCS Corner Brook. The mandate of the Board of Inquiry was to investigate the cause and contributing factors that may have led to the grounding of HMCS Corner Brook, and to identify preventative measures - if any.

See a schematic of HMCS Corner Brook.

The full extent of the damage to HMCS Corner Brook was assessed during its ongoing extended limited maintenance period, a period of minimal maintenance designed to preserve the submarine’s existing condition. The actual repairs will occur during the submarine’s scheduled extended docking work period at Victoria Shipyards Co. Ltd.

Due to program management reasons relating to the Department of National Defence's In-Service Support Contract, only one submarine at a time is to be in deep maintenance. HMCS Corner Brook will therefore be maintained at the minimum level necessary as the submarine awaits its scheduled extended docking work period, which is planned to commence upon completion of HMCS Chicoutimi’s extended docking work period in 2014.

HMCS Victoria:

HMCS Victoria was undocked on April 18, 2011 and began a series of in-harbour tests and trials, which included training to conduct operational torpedo firings. The submarine’s crew concurrently conducted personnel training and exercises.

In November 2011, HMCS Victoria officially completed its extended docking work period at Department of National Defence Fleet Maintenance Facility (FMF) Cape Breton in Esquimalt, B.C. Victoria’s extended docking work period was the first refit and maintenance activity of this type and intensity ever undertaken on a Victoria-class submarine. The valuable lessons learned from this first work period are being applied to subsequent activities. A previous dent in Victoria’s hull was repaired during the submarine’s work period and there are no diving restrictions on the submarine.

Following the extended docking work period, HMCS Victoria began its tiered readiness program of certifying the crew and all weapon systems with the aim of having the submarine declared fully operational.

In December 2011, HMCS Victoria proceeded to sea in order to conduct equipment trials and crew training, during which time the submarine successfully completed the surfaced safety phase of its readiness certification.

In January 2012, HMCS Victoria conducted the first dive of this operational cycle as well as the submarine’s dived safety phase of its workups. Concurrently, the submarine conducted additional post-extended docking work period sea acceptance trials.

In March and April of 2012, HMCS Victoria conducted a series of successful weapon system trials, including firings of the exercise version of the MK48 Heavyweight Torpedo at Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges, in Nanoose Bay, B.C. In the exercise version of the torpedo, the warhead module is replaced with electronics for gathering test data. These torpedo firings were part of the technical and operational tests of Victoria’s weapon systems.

In July 2012, HMCS Victoria torpedoed and sank a decommissioned United States Navy ship in the weapons testing range located near the island of Kauai, Hawaii during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise. HMCS Victoria is the first Victoria-class submarine to successfully target and sink another vessel with this torpedo.

HMCS Victoria was declared fully operational in 2012. Since completing its tiered readiness program, Victoria has participated in various advanced international exercises. These exercises have demonstrated the modern capabilities of the Victoria-class submarine while providing anti-submarine training for Canadian and international maritime vessels.

HMCS Windsor:

HMCS Windsor was undocked on April 11, 2012. In this instance, the submarine was lowered into the water by the Synchrolift in Halifax, N.S. where the majority of its extended docking work period work had been conducted. This marked a major milestone in the work period, indicating that it was nearing completion.

Since the undocking, the submarine has conducted a series of tests and trials, as well as crew training. As part of testing and trials, HMCS Windsor conducted a camber dive in Halifax Harbour in November 2012.

In December 2012, HMCS Windsor completed its extended docking work period at Department of National Defence Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Scott in Halifax, N.S. and returned to sea. With the completion of the work period, Windsor commenced its tiered readiness program. Windsor’s tiered readiness program will closely resemble the one conducted by HMCS Victoria.

The purpose of post-refit sea trials is to identify defects and other mechanical issues so that they can be addressed or repaired as soon as it becomes practical to do so. This is a normal part of the process of returning ships and submarines to operational status after a refit period because conducting sea trials is often the best way to identify potential problems.

In December 2012, a defect was identified with one of HMCS Windsor’s two diesel generators during sea trials. These diesel generators are part of the main submarine battery-charging system. Having two diesel generators provides a level of redundancy because the submarine can still safely operate at sea using a single diesel generator.

Despite the loss of one of its two diesel generators, HMCS Windsor is conducting local operations at sea to train submariners; however the submarine is under temporary restrictions on the range and endurance of these operations. These restrictions will remain in place until the affected diesel generator is replaced during a pre-planned work period within the submarine’s scheduled maintenance and operations routine.

Victoria-class Personnel Requirements

As of October 2013, there are 270 positions filled by qualified submariners and there are currently 77 sailors at various stages of their training within the Canadian Submarine Force establishment. This is comprised of positions ashore as well as the crews of the submarines.

Canadian Armed Forces members are considered to be trained submariners when they have passed the Basic Submarine Course, completed the at-sea consolidation phase and passed an individual qualification board. Upon completion, submariners receive the qualification badge known as “Dolphins” to signify that they now hold the Submarine Qualification.

Victoria In-Service Support Contract (VISSC)

Given that submarines are amongst the most highly complex machines in existence, maintaining them can be a costly process. Highly rigorous and regularly-scheduled maintenance periods are an essential element of the operational cycle of any class of submarine.

In 2008, Canada’s Treasury Board approved the expenditure of up to a maximum of $1.5 billion over a period of up to 15 years for the in-service support for the Victoria-class submarines. The Victoria In-Service Support Contract (VISSC) was awarded competitively to the Canadian Submarine Management Group, now renamed Babcock Canada Inc.

All Victoria-class extended docking work periods performed during the term of this contract, commencing with HMCS Chicoutimi, are funded and managed through the VISSC.

In June 2013, the Government of Canada exercised the first five-year extension option of this maintenance support contract, worth $531 million.

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