FEATURE

THE NEXT BIG NAVY BUY: NUCLEAR SUBMARINES?
By Mark Romanow

B

or de r ed b y thr ee oc e ans wh ic h tou ch upo n over 240,000 kilometres of coastline, Canada needs to maintain political sovereignty and economic jurisdiction over more than 10 million square kilometres of ocean in the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic.

RUSSIA
With the end of the Cold War t h e threat to shipping routes has diminished for the present but not entirely disappeared. The Russian submarine fleet remains the largest in the world and one of the most technologically advanced. Currently submarines remain the principal focus of naval development and construction efforts. The US office of Na val In telligence noted recently that by the Year 2000 most second and third generation Russian submarines will have improved quieting, comparable to western submarines, with some 20 per cent of all (SSNs) quieter than the latest Improved Los Angeles class 688I SSN’s deployed by the US or the Trafalgar class SSN’s deployed by the UK. Currently over 120 second and third generation submar ines of all types remain in service. Of this total some 45 are SSN’s of the Akula I/II; Sierra I/II and Victor III classes, some 36 diesel-electric submarines (SSKs) of the Kilo and Tango classes and a potent force of 14 Oscar I/II anti-ship mis sile s ubmarines (SSGNs). The most formidable component of this remains the 26-27 nuclearpowered ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs). Operational submarine deployments still occur regularly, although at a reduced level with some 35 “believed to have occurred in 1995 (18 SSBN and 17 ‘general purpose’ submarines)”.

SUBMARINES
The next item on the replacement agenda after Multi-Role Support Vessel (MRSV) examined in a related story in this issue of VANGUARD, in my view, must be SSN’s. Even with the recent purchase of the Upholder class SSKs to maintain our present three-dimensional capability, The Naval Vision argues,” the Canadian fleet is restricted to operations in icefree waters. This limitation seriously constrains our ability to establish a desirable level of presence in our vast Arctic reaches”. To establish sovereignty over our Arctic water s, international law demands that a nation be capable of effective monitoring and control over the area, and only SSN submarines are capable of both effectively monitoring and responding to incursions under the ice. Currently, the only nations that possess SSNs, which are the only submarines with a true under-ice capability, are the US, UK, France and Russia who are able to operate SSNs in Canadian Arctic waters with relative impunity with very little chance of being detected. As we have no submarines capable of patr ollin g ou r so ver eign Arctic waters, such nations usually do not feel obliged to disclose their submarine movements in our Arctic!

For Canada, sovereignty means ensuring that within her jurisdiction, Canadian law is respected and enforced. Accordingly, defence spending on this is the unavoidable price of nationhood. The C anadian Navy has always maintained an active presence off both Canada’s east and west coasts, but has only had the capacity for per iodic airborne Arctic maritime patrols, by CP-140/140A Aurora/Arcturus patrol aircraft. Cur rently, plans to develop an Arctic subsurface surveillance system, to enhance underwater surveillance of northern waters, are on hold. Clearly, though, this could never replace Arctic patrols by nuclear powered attack submarines (SSNs), as a fixed surveillance system can only cover specific points and has no means to accurately classify unwanted intruders or deter them once detected. Indeed, passive fixed underwater acoustic sensors have great difficulty in distinguishing sounds in the grinding Arctic ice pack. The best platform in this environment is still the submarine as it can effectively use it’s active sonar to ‘tag’ and classify unknown contacts, providing it can remain beneath the ice pack for some time.

VANGUARD

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Vol.4, No. 3

VANGUARD 9 Vol. core H. For the first time in decades the Government has come in with a balanced budget for the 1997/98 fiscal year with a built in contingency fund of $ 3 billion. It would have the obvious ‘political’ benefit of guaranteeing jobs for the under-employed shipbuilding industries of both nations as well as ensuring their continued viability. Therefore. about 21 les s than the complement of the Trafalgar class. less capable. The joint purchase would. In contrast. better cargo and vehicle handling capability. I suggest the following proposal as a viable long term solution. The Royal Navy has concluded that a life extension program refit of the LSL’s Sir Geriant and Percivale would not be cost efficient. plus any surpluses – the current years total is over $4 billion – that could be applied to debt reduction. defence funding has dropped from 9. The requirement for the ALSL’s is for construction largely to commercial standards. No. more helicopter space and is expected to delete the rarely used capability to beach and offload directly to land which fits right in with the capability of the proposed MRSV’s. An additional benefit to purchasing the Astute class SSN’s is that they are capable of carrying Tomahawk Cruise missiles. reactors which do not require refueling during their expected 25 to 30 year life span. They are guided to specific GPS co-ordinates and are capable of being reprogramed in flight to strike any of 15 pre-programed alternate targets as well as having the capability of sending back live video to the launching vehicle. Spending on s ocial pr ograms in 1998/99 will be over $63 billion which amounts to over 43 per cent of the total budget. based in Edmonton. A purchase of ‘Tactical Tomahawks’ sufficient to equip the SSN’s. The Astute class are improved versions of the Trafalgar class already in service since the 80’s. thereby ensuring Canada’s claim to Arctic sovereignty. ar e expected to cost half the cost of the current versions in service (US$569. and possibly selected surface ships. backed by first hand evidence of illegal intrusion. During the same time period DND will be replacing it’s existing AOR’s as they will be reaching the end of their operational lives of over 35 years. Maintenance of a core SSN capability will enable Canada to maintain a permanent presence in the Arctic. thus creating a ‘win-win’ situation. improved seaworthiness.4 million) and are expected to enter service by 2002. ensure that the unit costs. The “ Subs for Replenis hment Vessels” deal could be marketed to the Canadian and British public as the ‘Deal of the Millennium’. with annual pay downs of the accumulated debt. It would also ensure that intruding submarines can be detected and monitored. The UK also has an unexpected requirement to replace two 30 year old RFA landing ship logistic (LSL) vessels with Alternative LSL’s planned to enter service between 2002 and 2005. for both programs.3 per cent of the federal budget to only 6. and would be especially valuable in supporting the peace enforcing duties the Canadian Military now finds itself involved in since the end of the ‘Cold War’. which contain only a conven tional warhead. The timing would fit in nicely with a follow-on purchase by the UK of additional Astute class SSN’s to replace the remainder of the retiring Swiftsure class SSN’s.000 compared to US$1. This was due to massive cost overruns and serious delays incurred with the refit of their sister ship the LSL Sir Bedivere. would provide a whole new option of conventional response to threats to Canadian Maritime forces or to ground forces they may be supporting. The “Subs for Replenishment Vessels” deal could be marketed to the public as the ‘Deal of the Millennium’. are kept down for both nations. there will be no need to set up expensive refueling facilities for these boats and the existing submarine s upport infr as tructur e could be adapted to service them.8 per cent in the last 10 years. 3 . Tan ker and Ammunition ships and provide a sorely needed boost for it’s Strategic Sealift capability. With the use of innovative design ideas and advanced technology they will only require a crew of 109 (with space for an additional 12). b Mark Romanow is an independent defence/geopolitical analyst. Once the accumulated national debt which currently stands at $583. thereby allowing complaints to be filed in the international arena.3 billion has been pared down by the year 2002. Additionally.THE DEAL OF THE MILLENNIUM As to the lack of an underwater presence in Canada’s Arctic waters . as both the Norwegians and Swedes have been doing with good effect for years. They will be powered by the newly designed Rolls-Royce PWR 2. This would allow the RFA to replace older. a modest SSN program could be funded.353 newly developed ‘Tactical Tomahawks’. 4. the UK would commit to the purchase of six to eight MRSV for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Service. In return. thereby. They are expected to have an acoustic signature comparable to the most recent American and Russian SSN classes. The Canadian Government could negotiate the purchase of three to four SSN’s of the Astute class fr om the UK for between $4-5 billion between 2005-2010. the ‘financial’ savings that would accrue to both nations due to the joint purchase would be due to economies of scale and would be significant. and also less than that required by a CPF. The US Navy is set to purchase approximately 1.

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