Debating Defence and Naval Policy (XXVIII)

All three of [Peter's] criteria fit quite nicely into my definition of a simple ship and were fulfilled admirably by a USCGC cutter of 50 years ago. Endurance, utility, and environmental survivability are all easy and cheap to attain through sensible design. All of your characteristics were part of my presentation two years ago. The simple ship does need situational awareness and should be able to contribute towards it. This is where the admirals of the past were right to ensure that the old 205-class 'steamers' had a data link system, but forced them to 'soldier on' with their original sensors. That does not mean that they have to have advanced, long-range sensors for multi-dimensional combat. The simple ships' emphasis should be on short- range/shallow water EM and EO systems. Eric asked me for an example of a 'simple ship' and I gave him the same one I used for my presentation: the Vosper-Thornycroft River-class OPVs, which are going through a refit to make them more utilitarian (working deck enlargement, extra boat booms and cranes for larger craft and unmanned UUVs, USVs, extra accommodations, and expanded flight deck facilities for refuelling helos (but not accommodating them) and for launching and recovering UAVs). Although it is not doubled-hulled, this is a cheap design feature that can be built in from the start.”

David Perry: That was really the end of the debate, there were a couple more minor exchanges over details but everyone felt the main points had been made.

  • The Canada First defence policy proposal was badly flawed in terms of money, as Senator Kenny termed it; a fiscal sleight of hand that would not permit necessary modernization.
  • Paying off the AORs before they are replaced was a strategic disaster that would severely limit future fleet flexibility.
  • The very high price of new construction would dictate a review of fleet mix.
  • The navy needs to take the lead on the new Arctic Patrol vessel and move that project ahead as fast as possible. The arctic sovereignty and security patrol task had to be under navy control because it was too complex for any other department to handle.

After that, the debate went silent as the participants went about their separate activities and really waited to see what the media would produce next.