Friday, May 31, 2013

Canadian navy announces designs for new ships, says the military has placed its future in industry’s hands

The head of the Royal Canadian Navy delivered a poignant reminder Wednesday that the fate of Canada’s military is in industry’s hands as he announced that a design for new resupply ships has been chosen.
The relationship between National Defence and defence companies has been turbulent recently following problems with a number of high-profile procurement projects, including the F-35 stealth fighter, armoured vehicles for the army and search-and-rescue aircraft.
Some of these issues have originated within National Defence and other federal departments, others have been industry’s fault. The result, however, has been the same: delays, cost overruns, and project cancellations or resets.
Speaking to a room full of defence company representatives during a major arms-trade show in Ottawa, Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison noted that the huge opportunity inherent in the Conservative government’s promise to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in Canadian military equipment over the next two decades.
“If we are to collectively succeed, it will be because we enter into this great enterprise in a genuine spirit of strategic trust and co-operation, of frank and honest dialogue and respect,” he said.
Maddison appealed to industry representatives to look beyond their own interests and do the right thing for the country and Canada’s men and women in uniform.
“The Royal Canadian Navy has placed its future in a very real way into your hands,” he said. “The same applies to the Canadian Armed Forces as a whole.”We have done so with great optimism and confidence in your ingenuity, your creativity, and your shared determination to succeed. We’ve done so knowing that you have that sense of mission and purpose, which surpasses the fates and fortunes of the firms that employ you.”
He said this is particularly true for the government’s $35-billion national shipbuilding plan, which is emerging as one of the most complex military procurements in Canadian military history.
Maddison, who retires in just over three weeks, said the three major naval projects — new armed Arctic patrol ships; replacements for the navy’s aging destroyers and frigates; and new resupply vessels — are proceeding.
In particular, he revealed that a design had been chosen for the resupply vessels, also called joint support ships, in late April following an in-depth comparison between two options “based on capability, cost and risk.”

So the sequencing decision that’s going to be made is, you know, is JSS built first or is the polar (icebreaker) built first
The joint support ships were the subject of a Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report at the end of February, which warned the project could cost more than $1 billion more than the government had budgeted. The government refuted the PBO’s findings.
Maddison would not reveal what design had been selected for the vessels, nor could he say when the joint support ships will be built thanks to a scheduling conflict with the Coast Guard’s new polar icebreaker, the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker.
The joint support ships are desperately needed to replace the navy’s two 45-year-old resupply vessels, which were supposed to have been retired in 2012 and have become environmentally unsound and prohibitively expensive to maintain.
But they are expected to be ready for construction at the same time in 2017 as the Canadian Coast Guard’s new polar-class icebreaker, the CCGS John G. Diefenbaker, and the Vancouver shipyard responsible for both projects can only handle one project at a time.
Maddison said there is an “urgent” need to replace both the resupply ships and Coast Guard’s existing heavy icebreaker, the 40-year-old CCGS Louis St-Laurent.
“So the sequencing decision that’s going to be made is, you know, is JSS built first or is the polar (icebreaker) built first,” he said. “So we’ll see how that goes.”
The navy commander could not say whether the navy would still be able to afford the new joint support ship design that had been chosen if construction was delayed in favour of the icebreaker.
He also warned that he did not see the navy’s existing resupply vessels lasting past the end of this decade, though he was confident National Defence would be able to “find a way to innovatively mitigate any capability gap that opens.”

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