Monday, February 20, 2006

Good money after bad, and that's the best option

Babble on.


The [HMCS] Chicoutimi has been sitting in dry dock at the Halifax Shipyard since last spring. It is slated to return to duty in September 2007.

The military admits it has already spent about $25 million assessing the damage and removing some materials destroyed in the Oct. 5, 2004 blaze that killed Lieut. Chris Saunders of Halifax.

But the navy has refused to confirm or deny the projected $100-million cost, which is more than six times the $15 million the navy initially estimated for fixing the Chicoutimi.

*pinky to corner of mouth* One hundred MILLLION dollars!

Seriously, that's a pile of coin. That's over twelve percent of the Upholder project's original 'non-recurring costs' of $812 million, and it's $10 million more than the projected costs of operating the entire four-ship submarine fleet for a year.

Anyone who has ever owned a used car is familiar with the dilemma: at what point does it stop making sense to fix the damned thing and just buy a new one? With a fleet of submarines operated by no other navy in the world, the problem is even trickier. Dragging the Chicoutimi past the edge of the continental shelf and scuttling it doesn't solve the problem, since we have three more of the beasts, none of which are in good working order.

So what are our options? I'm going to assume buying new isn't one of them.

If we decide the repair cost is too high, in terms of danger to personnel and financially, then we not only lose all the formidable capabilities of a submarine force for the forseeable future, we lose the institutional ability to operate such a force. That is to say, our navy forgets how to fight in subs. That's an awfully drastic step to take, because it's not something you can undo in anything less than a generation, and probably more.

So we really have to fix the cursed things. In my opinion, if you're going to take a hit, then take it all at once and take it openly. Sit all four of the ships, and get a comprehensive, and if possible, independent review of what it will take to make all of them reliable fighting ships again. Then cost those modifications and repairs out, not to the lowest bidder, but to the one in which you have the highest confidence - we've done it cheap, now we want to do it right. Then bite the bullet and spend the money.

Otherwise, you fall into the typical short-sighted used-car trap: band-aid solutions to deeper problems end up costing more in the long-run. Better to pull the machines apart once and do everything than to nickel-and-dime it.

Years ago when it was first announced, I had hoped the Upholder purchase would mark a turning point for the long-suffering Canadian Forces submarine community. Since then, we've seen good men die - and I'm not just talking about Lt (N) Saunders here - and we still don't have a credible subsurface capability. It's about time we either ante up or get out of the game; anything less will be a waste of time, money, and quite possibly lives.

Along with our submariners, I'm still waiting for the turning point we so desperately need.

Babble off.

Update: From the comments at SDA, with thanks to Kate for the link, comes the funniest four-word solution I've yet seen: Give it das Boot. Heh.


At 9:09 p.m., Blogger arctic_front said...

I would think, with all the icepack and arctic ocean we have to defend, I can see absolutely no purpose to having diesel-electric submarines that can neither go, nor defend the arctic. Harper wants 2 armed ice-breakers and we already have 4 useless subs. I think common sense and military nessecessity(sp) says the money should go to nuclear subs with proper under-ice capibility. The repair of the diesel electric subs may be required, but they would make great training vessels for a small but NEW fleet of nuclear subs that can truely defend our sovriegnty in the arctic, on NATO or UN military requirements, and anywhere on the west or east coasts.

Yes they will be expensive. But as our neighbors to the south and other allies have shown, Nuke subs are inherintly safer, and much more versitile. Our fleet of diesel-electric white elephants can serve no realistic military purpose other than to play target to NATO navy excersizes. If that's all they can be used for, why bother?

We can easily aquire the needed technology, or develope our own. Canada has a bit of a track record for military innovation, ie Avro Arrow, and it would give our technology, engineering and electronic sectors a huge boost beyond the military-only application.

A small, extreamly agile and very silent fast-attack sub is not only perfect for the job of arctic sovriegnty, its the only useful tool for the job.

At 8:02 a.m., Blogger Ghost of a flea said...

"We can easily aquire the needed technology, or develop our own"

Arctic Front: you have obviously never talked to someone about the trickiness of fitting a nuclear reactor into a submarine hull. The Avro Arrow is hardly a stunning example of Canadian technological implementation, btw. This leaves us with a few SSN vendors to consider: the Russians (think Kursk then think no thanks), the French (think Foch and think the same thing) and the Americans (i.e. the very people from whom these vessels are meant to defend our sovereignty). And, of course, the British from whom we already got such a good deal with the Upholder (now Victoria). Take your pick!

At 8:05 a.m., Blogger Ghost of a flea said...

Slight correction: I meant the Charles de Gaulle (and not the Foch).

At 7:03 p.m., Blogger Kevin Creighton said...

Personally, I think when even Chilé is kicking your @ss in the submarine department, you know you're in trouble.

The Upholders were a bad idea from the get-go. Rather than go with something that can work under Arctic ice like the Scorpene or that uber-cool U214, we have these klunkers.

Foist the Upholders off on, say, Ecuador, and move on.


At 7:13 p.m., Blogger Fred :) said...

no need these days for Nukes . . there are a number of air independent propulsion systems that are in production.

We shouldahve bought brand new Sweish designed subs with AIP . . goves about 2-3 weeks submerged capability and far quiter than nukes.

the USN has recentt out defences

At 7:31 p.m., Blogger Shaken said...

I suggest it be towed to Toronto and tied it up where the Haida once berthed. Leave it as is, as the fitting reminder of Liberalism at its finest.

It can remain on station there, defending the heart of Trudeaupia.

At 7:34 p.m., Blogger Kevin Creighton said...

Actually, Flea, the Germans are making a great little air-independent sub, the U214, as are the Swedes with their Gotland-class. (More here.)

The Swedish sub gave the U.S. navy ASW assets quite a run for their money recently, and I remember reading that in fact, The Gotland got a simulated kill on a U.S. Navy CVN. Quite a coup, indeed.

At 10:25 p.m., Blogger John B said...


I read about the new German submarine several weeks ago. The post came from a former U.S. submariner who had been on board one of the last conventional U.S. submarines. He also mentioned the stealth capabilities of conventional subs and how successful they had been in exercises.

At 11:22 p.m., Blogger EarlW said...

"One hundred MILLLION dollars!"
Compared to the Gun Registry (2 billion), the Montreal Olympic Stadium (1 billion)... it's small change ;-(

Notice how they have changed the word 'spending' to 'investing'?

At 1:40 a.m., Blogger TonyGuitar said...

I can second the silence or stealth of deisel electric British subs. However.. TG ex-RCN


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home