Future Canadian Surface Combatant: The Only Option

Now that the Canadian government has entered the decision phase for the bids entered for the rights to build 15 Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) ships, it is time to give an opinion as to which of the three bids entered will be the best fit for Canada’s future naval fleet. The backbone of this future fleet will be vessels that see Canada through the next few decades, and must be judiciously chosen. There are several new designs of warships being presented to Canada and pros and cons with all of them. Spanish, Dutch and British companies have all answered the Requests for Proposals (RFPs) within the time-frame. Spain is offering its F-100 Christopher Columbus-class, the Dutch are offering their De Zeven Provincien-class and the Lockheed-Martin (LM)/British Aerospace Electric (BAE) consortium is offering their Type 26 frigate. The Italian/French consortium RFP was disqualified as they did not submit the proposal within the time limit. Canada expects to make a decision on the winning bid by the Spring of 2018.

All companies have multi-purpose frigates either in service, under construction or planned that can do the job. The German Type 126/MKS 180 Saxony-class – which is not one of the bids in the CSC competition – is particularly interesting, with its strengthened hull for Arctic operations. But there is only one design for Canada that offers a balanced ‘plug & play’ approach and that design is, without question, the LM/BAE consortium Type 26 frigate. This ship exceeds Canada’s high-level requirements, will be deployable worldwide for extended periods and would be more than capable of replacing our anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine capabilities with one single class of ship. The Australian Navy has the BAE Type 26 frigate on its short list to replace its aging frigates as well. No other ship design compares to meet Canadian naval requirements, including the Italian/French FREMM-class, the German Type 126/MKS 180 Frigate, the Spanish F-100 Christopher Columbus-class or the Dutch De Zeven Provincien-class.

The LM/BAE Type 26 frigate is a cutting-edge warship that is simply the best fit for Canada’s future workhorse navy. It is a modern new warship with all the capabilities Canada requires in a CSC. The Type 26 is infinitely adaptable, can easily be reconfigured and the RCN can tweak the design to cater to its own development requirements which is where the Type 26 has the potential to excel. A reconfigurable mission bay can accept containerized loads to allow the rapid reloading of the vessel. Such loads might include aid/rescue packages, underwater vehicles, boats or naval drones.

The Type 26 frigate is 149.9 metres (492 ft) in length and has a maximum beam of 20.8 metres (69 ft) and a displacement of 7,000+ tons. A CODELOG (Combined Diesel Electric or Gas Turbine-MT 30) configuration is deployed in the ship, giving it a top speed in excess of 29+ knots with 4 x 20V 4000 M53 diesel generators. It has a MK 41 VLS system that can accommodate surface, air and land attack missiles. It has a 5" 62 caliber Mk. 45 medium range gun along with 2 X 30mm, 2 X CIWS & 2 X mini-gun systems and can be fitted with future Canadian torpedos and counter-measures. It will accommodate Canadian hull-mounted and towed array sonar systems that are vital to long-range submarine detection. Its large flight deck can easily handle the CH 148 Cyclone helicopter in its hanger, with the ability to land heavy-lift Chinook helicopters. Its hangar facilities are also large enough to accommodate maritime unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) along with a flexible mission bay.

It can undertake a wide range of roles from high-intensity conflicts including anti-submarine, anti-surface warfare and area-air defence, along with the ability to aid in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) operations. The Type 26 is flexible, versatile and highly survivable with an extremely low acoustic signature. It exceeds all Canadian naval requirements, and will accommodate Canada-specific modular design sub-systems with open systems architecture. These same features will minimize ownership costs and facilitate Canadian industry playing a major role in through-life support and upgrades, delivering long-term economic benefits to Canada. Its low acoustic signature, crucial to evading detection from submarines, will translate into safety and survivability of the crew, and the ability of the ship to successfully complete its missions. Accommodations are included for 208 crew, with a core complement of 118 sailors.

A major part of the ship design will be the new Lockheed-Martin state-of-the-art LM CCM 330 Combat System (CS), that will meet all of Canada’s Naval C4ISR requirements. It may only have one drawback – the lack of ice capability to operate in our North. If it had a more strengthened hull, however, that would certainly go a long way to meet the strategic needs for a truly ‘blue’ three-ocean Canadian Navy. It also works well within our time-frame as BAE has already started construction of the Type 26 frigate in July of 2017, about three years ahead of Canada’s future naval frigate requirements.

The LM/BAE Type 26 Canadian Surface Combatant is simply the right solution for Canada’s future naval fleet and at a final cost of between $60/70B CAD, they are still well worth the investment and of course will be built here in Canada.

David Dunlop (RCN PO1NCIOP (Retired)-NATO/QGJM/CD2) is a retired RCN Petty Officer 1st Class Naval Combat Information Officer with over 41 years experience as a Tactical Data Coordinator for Command.

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