Canada to Build Off-the-Shelf Warship Design

Iver Huitfeldt class destroyer, a possible design for the Canadian program (file image courtesy mtlarsen)

By MarEx 2016-06-14 13:23:17

On Monday, Canadian public services and procurement minister Judy Foote confirmed that her office would be accelerating the procurement process for as many as 15 replacement "Canadian Surface Combatants" by using an off-the-shelf hull design, cutting two years off of the first delivery date and helping to bridge a gap between the retirement of Canada’s aging destroyers and the sea trials of the newbuilds. The vessels will be built at Irving Shipyards in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

"We're talking about existing designs," said Lisa Campbell, assistant deputy minister for acquisitions, discussing the project in February. "It takes out a whole bunch of the design technical risk of trying to fit together a combat systems integrator with a warship design that possibly was more customized."

Industry will propose designs this summer for the military to use as a basis for the vessel; observers have suggested that the new surface combatant could end up being based on the Danish Iver Huitfeldt class. Two variants of the same hull will be designed for different missions, one for air defense / command and control, the other a general purpose frigate to replace Canada's Halifax-class vessels.  The timeline is tight, as the Canadian Navy's last destroyer is set to retire next year. 

The program's original expected cost was $26 billion, the largest procurement order in Canada since the Second World War. Last year, the head of the Navy, Vice Admiral Mark Norman, acknowledged that the project would greatly exceed its budget; an independent analysis by firm A.T. Kearney put the total at $42 billion, including a doubling in construction costs due to high capability specifications. The Navy has been working hard to keep the delivered vessels near the original budget framework, insiders say, in part by revisiting discussions on required capabilities. The service insists it is retaining all necessary equipment for the warships' mission. 

"It's a question of what the government actually wants to do. Do they want to maximize on the numbers? Do they want to maximize on the capability?" said Dave Perry, a defence analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, speaking to CBC. "I certainly think that [the cost is] at least $2 billion for a fully capable ship, the ones they're talking about . . . And potentially more, depending on exactly what goes into it and when they're built."