All posts by The Atlantic Council of Canada

Preparing for the RCN’s Future: Platform Growth and Naval Vessels

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) will begin replacing much of its fleet at the start of the next decade. To ensure that its fleet remains relevant over its thirty-plus years of service life, adequate platform growth potential must be factored into the design process of the new vessels.

The RCN has 15 surface combatants: three elderly Iroquois-class destroyers and 12 Halifax-class anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigates. The ships of the former class were all commissioned in 1972 and the first will not be replaced until 2020 at the earliest. The Halifax were commissioned between 1992 and 1996 and the last unit will remain in service until it is replaced in 2033. All replacement dates are based on current estimates and assume no delays – an unlikely assumption given Canada’s procurement practices and the intricacies of systems integration on a new hull – and assume, of course, that there will be no project cancellation. Regardless, even in a best case scenario the last Iroquois will have served for an astonishing forty-eight years, and the last Halifax for thirty-seven years.

How can platform growth be incorporated into the fifteen-ship Single Class Surface Combatant Project? To answer this question it is useful to look at Canada’s most recent naval combatant class, the Halifax-class frigate, for lessons. The Halifax is a highly advanced warship by any standard. It is, however, primed for a single task: anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The mission requirement that determined the design was ASW for the purpose of protecting convoys in the Atlantic Ocean in the event that NATO went to war with the Soviet Union. For that mission it carries an impressive set of sonar and large numbers of anti-submarine munitions

Today the RCN has a very different core mission requirement: expeditionary operations. For this type of mission, the Halifax bow gun is inadequate for naval gunfire support and cannot take advantage of a series of new long-range naval ammunition built for larger guns. This shortcoming is made more acute by the fact that a smaller system cannot simply be replaced by a larger one unless sufficient hull volume has been allocated in the design. A similar shortcoming is its air defense system. The Halifax-class has no vertical launch cell system (VLS). VLS is a launcher system that is built into the deck to allow rapid launch of munitions. Additionally, it makes more efficient use of deck space and the ships’ volume. The Halifax-class cannot be retrofitted with a VLS system as adequate platform growth was not designed to allow for it. Instead, it has two Mark 48 eight-cell launchers that can only launch the RIM-162 Extended Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM). As surface-to-air missiles go, this is a short-range system that allows the frigate only to protect itself.

A study of the Halifax-class frigate provides important lessons on why it is important to ‘design in’ platform growth on naval vessels – especially when they will be in service for many unpredictable decades. Perhaps the three-most important platform-growth requirements today are energy generation, deck space and internal volume, and VLS cells. Energy generation is important to ensure that the warship’s sensors, particularly its radar systems, can be replaced with more powerful, energy hungry sensors. Furthermore, it is quite likely that in the future naval vessels will be able to carry various types of direct-energy weapons (such as lasers) to deal with increasingly sophisticated and fast anti-ship weapon systems. To utilize such systems a warship must be able to generate sufficient electrical power.

VLS
A SM-3 anti-ballistic missile is launched from a vertical launch system (VLS) cell. To use this system Canada will have to purchase the longest VLS system.

Deck space, internal volume, and VLS cells are related platform growth priorities. As the example of the Halifax’s naval gun has made clear, if the RCN intends to at least retain the option of arming its vessels with long-range naval guns for littoral operations then it must at least ensure that sufficient deck space and internal volume is ‘designed in.’ Moreover, the flexibility VLS cells provide makes them a priority for all navies today. The American Mark 41 VLS system offers a system that comes in varying numbers of cells and varying cell length/depth. The latter is important as the choice of cell length/depth determines what munitions can be launched from it. For example, should Canada procure a warship with the longest VLS length/cell, and if it hadn’t ‘designed in’ a margin of growth for cell length below deck, then it will be unable to ever fit its vessels with the current crop of anti-ballistic missile defenses and land-attack cruise missiles. This reduces the mission flexibility of a warship class and reduces their effectiveness over their service life. To overcome this, longer VLS cells can be procured or at least factored into the design – ‘designed for but not with.’ In a similar vein, space and volume can be allocated for VLS systems that can be added in the future.

Given past experiences it is likely that Canada’s next-generation of naval surface combatant will serve many decades into the future. Given the increasing importance of littoral/coastal operations, climatic change in the Arctic, and the need to undertake expeditionary operations, it is paramount that any naval vessel be designed with sufficient platform growth in mind. By doing so, the RCN will be able to hedge against an unpredictable fiscal, geopolitical and environmental future.

Shahryar Pasandideh is a third year student studying international relations and Middle Eastern studies at Trinity College, University of Toronto. He is interested in contemporary debates on grand strategy, maritime security, Sino-American and Sino-Indian strategic interaction, and the military balance in the Persian Gulf region.
Disclaimer:

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and the news agencies and do not necessarily represent those of the NATO Council of Canada. This article is published for information purposes only and was re-posted with permission from the Atlantic Council of Canada from its original form. 

How Peru Got its Territory Back

Territorial conflict has been a continuing problem in South America and is often related to the possession of natural resources that represent a considerable income to the countries in dispute. On January 27, 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gave its verdict on a case brought before the court in 2008 by Peru, which asserted a territorial claim on approximately 38,000 sq km of the Pacific Ocean bordering with Chile. The court ruled in Peru’s favour, in a judgment that was widely regarded as fair.

This is not the first confrontation between Peru and Chile. “Guerra del Pacifico” War of the Pacific (1879-1883) was a well-known conflict between both countries and resulted in the annexation of valuable disputed territory on the Pacific coast. It grew out of a dispute between Chile, Peru and Bolivia over control of a part of the Atacama Desert located between 23rd to 26th parallels of the South American Pacific coast, known for an abundance of mineral resources, particularly sodium nitrate.

After years of confrontation between the three countries, Chile and Peru signed the Treaty of Ancón relinquishing the Province of Tarapacá as well as the departments of Arica and Tacna to Chile in 1883. These territories would remain under Chilean control, however, the two nations were unable to agree on how or when to hold the plebiscite, and in 1929, both  countries signedthe Treaty of Lima, in which Peru gained Tacna and Chile maintained control of Arica. Even though Peru regained Tacna, some fishing dominions were given to Chile thereby angering Peruvians financially dependent on artisanal fishing. Diplomatic relations between the two nations have consequently remained tense for many years.

Today both countries are once again disputing, this time in relation to claims on maritime territories. The issue was brought to the fore in 2008 when Peru filed the claim at the International Court of Justice in The Hague that marine boundaries had never been formally agreed upon by the two countries and needed objective international approval. In its defense, Chile posits that the line had been defined in agreements signed in 1952 and 1954, which Peru argued were strictly fishing accords.

After 5 years of tension, the court has finally ordered that the common marine border be redrawn to follow the current border for 80 miles from the coast but then will veer southwest for 120 miles, giving Peru the disputed “external triangle.” The current border runs due west from the coast for a full 200 miles, a demarcation that Chile has enforced since it won the Pacific War with Peru and Bolivia.

In a statement issued after the verdict was announced, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said “Peru is pleased with the outcome” of the court’s decision, and would “take the required actions and measures immediately for its prompt implementation.” The Peruvian government also said that the decision applied to nearly 19,000 square miles of offshore territory, or more than half of the 37,000 square miles it originally sought. Peru’s fishing industry estimates that the disputed zone has an annual catch of 565m Peruvian nuevo soles ($200m; £121m), particularly of anchovies which are used to make fishmeal. Peru will also gain access to some extra swordfish, tuna and giant squid.

Peru’s victory will not only significantly increase income in its fishing industry, but will also go a long way in restoring nationalism after a humiliating defeat to Chile in the 19th Century.

Alternatively, Michelle Bachelet, who will assume the Chilean presidency in March, stressed that even though Chile had lost none of its territorial waters (which extend for 12 nautical miles from the coast), the ruling is a “painful loss” considering the importance of this external triangle. As a condition for implementing the agreement representatives from the government of Chile have also suggested that Peru sign an International Convention on the Law of the Sea and accept the line through Hito 1 as its land border (losing 350 meters of beach); an agreement Peru remains reluctant to address, hoping instead for swift implementation of the ICJ’s verdict.

Andrea was born in Bogota, Colombia, and immigrated to Canada in 2006. She graduated in June 2012 from York University with a Bilingual BA in International Studies. After finishing her BA, she moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where she had the opportunity to do an internship with the World Health Organization (WHO). She is pursuing a Double Master in Public Policy and Human Development at the University of Maastricht, Holland. This article was re-published by permission and appeared in original form at The Atlantic Council of Canada.  

Israeli Private Security in the Suez Canal?

By Jasen Sagman

Suez Canal Authority HQ in Ismailia, Egypt
Suez Canal Authority HQ in Ismailia, Egypt

Egypt’s military-backed government recently dismissed reports that Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has hired Israeli private security company Seagull Maritime Security to guard the vital waterway.

Reports began to circulate on local social media early several weeks ago, with cyber-activists citing the company’s website as saying that Seagull was capable of embarking/disembarking armed guards at locations, all approved of by the local government authorities, including Suez, Egypt.

According to a subsequent SCA statement, the reports “are categorically devoid of truth… and aim to shake security and spread false news,” however a report by the Arab Organisation for Human Rights recently revealed that the security company provides maritime security services for cruises and cargo ships passing through the Suez Canal in Egypt.

In fact, the Egyptian authorities have granted the company a license to work in the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. Additionally, the company is authorized to work in Arab and African ports including Jordan, UAE, and Oman. According to the report, the company is one of the few whose guards are allowed to disembark fully armed on the Egyptian island of Tiran.

The company is a member of the Israeli Association of Private Security Companies, and was founded by its CEO Kfir Magen, who served as an officer in the Israeli navy. The company’s directors were prominent leaders of the Israeli armed forces, including Eliezer Marom who served as a navy commander between 2007 until 2011. The company’s advisory board chairman, Ami Ayalon, served as commander in chief of the navy in 1992, and served as head of the Shin Bet in 1996.

Despite the report, the SCA maintains that the Suez Canal is secured exclusively by Egyptian police and army forces.

Jasen Sagman is pursuing an M.A. in Global Diplomacy from the University of London, SOAS. He works for a Member of Parliament in Ottawa, and holds an Honours B.A. in Political Science from the University of Toronto. This post appeared in its original form at the Atlantic Council of Canada.

A Future for Canadian Submarines? Costs, Capabilities, and Interests

By Andrew Chisholm

Canada’s submarine fleet often sparks debate, over its high maintenance costs and over whether Canada needs submarines at all. Going forward, that debate must center on how costs, capabilities, and Canadian interests align with one another.

Canada’s Victoria-class submarine fleet has been controversial since its inception. Most recently, a report by Michael Byers and Stewart Webb argues that the time has come to either phase out the program or commit to a robust discussion of how to replace the fleet. Critics cite a disappointing history of expensive repairs, time lost, and a tragic fire. Supporters insist that the boats provide important capabilities, and Navy planners have sought to get the ball rolling on acquiring new subs sometime after 2020. Going forward, debate over the current fleet and its potential replacement should include all of those elements, but focus on how they align with one another: whether submarines provide the right capabilities at the right price to serve Canada’s national interests.

Costs

The subs were launched in the late 1980s and early 1990s, laid aside by the UK in 1994, purchased by Canada in 1998, and delivered between 2000 and 2004. Canada undertook their first real refit after years sitting in saltwater, ending in significant cost overruns. Tragically, during its cross-Atlantic voyage a fire broke out on HMCS Chicoutimi resulting in the death of a Sailor and deferral of Chicoutimi’s repairs to 2010.

Since 2003, the boats have spent a combined total of 1131 days at sea (less than 33% of the time). HMCS Corner Brook remains in maintenance (to be completed in 2016) begun after she ran aground during exercises in 2011, and despite a recent $209-million refit HMCS Windsor is restricted to operations in Canadian waters until one engine is removed and replaced late this summer.

The HMCS Corner Brook at sea, sort of
The HMCS Corner Brook at sea, sort of

Nevertheless, the fleet is scheduled to reach “steady state,” (two subs at high readiness, one at standard readiness, and one in refit) with the completion of Chicoutimi’s repairs at the end of 2013. As one retired Admiral says, the fleet may be turning a corner and Canada now able to reap some benefits.

With regard to replacing the fleet, Byers and Webb note the three main options, ranging in cost (depending on capabilities) from $365 million to $950 million per ship. They also note that replacement subs would be new, off-the-shelf (but built in Canada) and unlikely to have similar maintenance problems and costs.

Interests and Capabilities

The Canadian interests for which submarines could be relevant can be divided into three categories: the defense of Canada and North America, support of Canadian expeditionary deployments, and support of Canada’s interest in global maritime stability.

First, regarding the defense of Canada and North America, proponents argue that submarines provide the ability to covertly carry out coastal sovereignty and surveillance patrols, including in the Arctic. But as Byers and Webb point out, in Canadian waters at least, these functions can be performed better (and cheaper) by aircraft and drones, combined with surface-craft for enforcement. Also, the Victoria Class has no under-ice capability, although new subs likely would.

Second, submarines could support certain expeditionary deployments. The current fleet can provide security for other naval platforms, their covert surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities would be valuable, and they can enhance the activities of special operations forces. New subs could have the capability to hit land targets with guided missiles launched from offshore, as American and British boats did in support of NATO’s Libyan operation in 2011.

Supporting global maritime stability is a key interest for Canada as it relies heavily on sea-borne trade, even with the United States. More broadly, Canada has long worked to entrench and expand global trade, which is heavily sea-reliant. As its government seeks to expand trade relations with Europe, Asia, and Latin America the importance of commercial sea routes, and therefore of global maritime stability, will only increase for Canada.

This is particularly the case in the quintessentially maritime Asia Pacific region where China in particular is driving growth in economic and military power. Byers and Stewart argue that because of its global trading links, including with Canada, China is unlikely to engage in conflict, so investing in submarines based on the slim probability of Canadian engagement in such a conflict may be unwise. But according to Elinor Sloan, “Horizon 2050: A strategic concept for Canada’s navy,” the document presumed to be guiding future naval platform acquisitions, views maritime inter-state competition in the region with concern.

As I outlined in a previous article, territorial disputes, great power strategy, and nationalist emotions in Asia Pacific create a volatile mix. In this environment conventional deterrence and power projection will play an important role, either in maintaining stability or in actual conflict. The potential for a Canadian submarine presence in such Asia Pacific roles was forecast by HMCS Victoria’s participation in the US-led Rim of the Pacific, 2012 exercise.

In this vein, as Commander Craven notes, submarines provide access to areas denied to other forces and serve as a credible deterrent against almost all forces, including other states’ sea-borne power projection platforms. They can also serve in a power projection role, especially around shipping “choke points” and littoral areas. To be sure, surface ships can perform these roles (and others that submarines cannot), but they lack the tactical and psychological advantages of stealthy subs.

Conclusion

Debate concerning Canada’s submarine fleet and its possible renewal will consider many factors, from costs to capabilities and interests. The final decision must be made based on how those factors align with each other. Submarines provide many capabilities, but they are not necessarily the only platforms that do, and may or may not be the most efficient platforms in the doing. I am not qualified to judge whether submarines are the ideal platform for Canada to secure its interests as efficiently as possible, but that discussion of balance must be the center of debate going forward.

Andrew Chisholm is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. He recently graduated from the University of King’s College with a B.A., Combined Honours, in Political Science and History, and studied Conflict Resolution at the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Andrew focuses his writing on contemporary Canadian foreign, defence, and security policy. His wider interests include sovereignty and governance, international diplomacy, and emerging security threats. Contact: andrewmchisholm@gmail.com