Present at the creation

2006-07-06

in Canada, Politics

The Globe and Mail – Canada’s big left-leaning national paper – has a surprisingly funny poll running today: “U.S. President George W. Bush turns 60 on Thursday and Prime Minister Harper will be in Washington to help him celebrate. What gift should the PM bring?”

  1. Four fabulous British-made submarines [a reference to our submarine fleet: four diesel-powered subs better suited to re-fighting the Battle of the Atlantic than modern naval operations]
  2. A belt buckle carved from softwood lumber [reference to a long running trade dispute where the US was ruled against both by NAFTA panels and the WTO, but refused to drop its illegal policy]
  3. Don Cherry [colourful Canadian hockey commentator, infamous for wearing really bad suits]
  4. Seal skin seat covers for Air Force One [those cute little harp seals are basically a license for Greenpeace to print money]
  5. A copy of Stompin’ Tom’s Greatest Hits [not a musical personage I can ever recall hearing, but one of those things Easterners, or possibly an earlier generation, are likely to think of as very Canadian]
  6. The Montreal Expos. Oh, wait….

My vote? I say go with the belt buckle. He will probably wear it while clearing brush. A running tally of the results is here.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Davy July 6, 2006 at 6:44 pm

I’m going to have to disagree with this all too popular assessment of the Victoria class.

1) Importance of Subsurface Capability
Critics have argued that submarines are unable to perform maritime interdiction, and is therefore ill suited to coastal defence. Meanwhile its inability to perform any land attack function makes it useless for our expeditionary objectives. Many of these critics have argued that since our Buffalo SAR aircraft can only drop supplies and identify rescuees and not pick them up that these aircraft should be replaced with rotary-wing aircraft that can. In both cases, the specific roles of these systems are being ignored. For Australia, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and Singapore, the subsurface capability is an essential one. It enables safe (undetectable) reconnaissance of a nation’s maritime sovereignty and provides this patrol capability at a fraction of the cost versus battlespace of a frigate or destroyer.

1) Importance of Diesel Electric Subs
While diesel electric submarines have indeed existed since even the First World War, the modern SSK is vastly more advanced than its predecessors (save certain types in Chinese and DPRK service, the Ming or Romeo class for example). The Australians and Canadians successfully operated the ex-UK Oberon class during and immediately after the Cold War, a vessel distinquished by its successful attack on the USS Enterprise during an excercise. This leads me first the the benefit of a diesel electric sub over its nuclear powered kin: its ability to operate in near silence. Its no small wonder that the Chinese are putting their money into SSKs rather than SSNs for coastal defence and denial.

2) Value and Quality of the Upholder class
Now regarding the ex-Upholder class. The UK’s decision to sell was based on a political decision to maintain an all-nuclear expeditionary submarine force and left these boats with 1-4 years in service prior to decommissioning. At the time, they were arguably the best SSKs in service and were undoubtably a bargain at a reported price of £244m (compared to roughly £900m to build).
What do they do after all? At a cost of 1/3 of that of a frigate or destroyer, the Victoria class is able to (without danger of being seen) monitor and patrol Canadian territory. It is able to provide a more detailed analysis of an intruder than would a CP-140 aircraft and does so with the advantage of near complete stealth. It would then be the role of a frigate or MCDV to board the vessel.

Without a doubt, from the editor of Jane’s Fighting Ships to sailors I’ve spoken to, the consensus is that these are incredibly capable submarines.
Best,

SMD

Milan July 6, 2006 at 8:29 pm

Scott,

Intelligent rebuttal is far too rare and always valuable. Thanks for taking the time.

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