Mark Collins - “Drone Week” Mark Collins - The Middle Kingdom’s (misguided) Strategies
Dec 17

…just wait until this study come out in fall 2013 (and the Parliamentary Budget Officer, also of F-35 fame, is looking at the matter too! See here, with lots of further links):

Auditor general turns attention to feds’ $35-billion shipbuilding plan [links added]

Months after his scathing F-35 report shook the Harper government’s plans to buy the stealth fighter, Auditor General Michael Ferguson has turned his attention to another military procurement project: the Harper government’s $35-billion shipbuilding plan.

Ferguson’s report on the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy is due in fall 2013 and — depending on what he finds — could be far more explosive than the F-35.

Ferguson’s office isn’t saying much about what exactly the study will look at.

“When determining what to audit, the office focuses on the areas in which federal government organizations face the highest risk,” spokesman Ghislain Desjardins said in an email. “Examples of high-risk areas are those that cost taxpayers significant amounts of money or that could threaten the health and safety of Canadians if something were to go wrong. Acquiring military ships … is one of those areas.”

…amid problems with the F-35 stealth fighter program and other military purchases, the Conservative government has held up the shipbuilding strategy as an important success for military procurement and a means to leverage tax dollars into massive economic spinoffs.

But there have been repeated indications that the strategy is in danger of running aground [see the posts here]— which would have military, economic and political ramifications far greater than those associated with the F-35…

Parliament Budget Officer Kevin Page is examining what financial implications the joint support ship project [more here] will have on the federal government, with a report expected early next year.

Page is also planning to do a similar examination of the Arctic vessels project [more here]…

As far as I can see there is no way the planned ships can be built on time or on budget, since this government (as any other would) insists they be built by Canadian shipyards that are simply not going to be up to the job for some time to come–if ever. Moreover the government bureaucracy itself is ill-equipped to manage things:

The Canadian Government’s Ignorance about Shipbuilding, Design, etc.

There’s a real shipwreck in the making. I do not believe the number of planned ships, with the intended capabilities, can be afforded if the government insists on continuing its current approach. In particular, from the end of an earlier post:

the RCN’s Canadian Surface Combatant plans, if carried out, would likely eat the other services’ budget lunches [$41 billion for acquisition of 15 CSCs and in-service support! and that figure is doubtless unrealistic]

Maybe a different mix of vessels should replace the current destroyers and frigates, see end of this post. The government should be asking if its defence policy requires that the RCN maintain a large blue water fleet. But this government is unwilling to ask–or answer–those fundamental questions about what the things the Canadian Forces are realistically supposed to be able to do, and what it is willing to pay to maintain and equip the CF to be able to do those things effectively and efficiently.

Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger

3 Responses to “Mark Collins - Shipbuilding: If You Thought the Auditor General’s F-35 Report Caused the Government Trouble…”

  1. MarkOttawa Says:

    This post should be read in connection with mine above:

    “J.L. Granatstein - Delays, deficit-fighting and no direction

    Worst of all, it is becoming increasingly clear that the government has no defence policy. Nowhere has the government stated that it foresees threats or crises that might require Canadian intervention with this or that kind of forces. Granted, in a world in flux, such forecasts are difficult to make in a credible way, but such thinking used to be called strategic planning. Governments and their militaries formed such judgments, and the elected politicians, in consultation with the brass, determined that they needed so many battalions, aircraft, ships and the money to pay for them. Moreover, in a democracy, the public was ordinarily consulted in the preparatory stages and informed, via a White Paper, of the broad outlines of the government’s policy.

    Not here, not now, not from the Harper government. We get no indications that there is a policy in the works and nothing so much as the sense that the government wishes that it had never made defence such a large part of its party program. Equipment purchases might still be good job creators — and vote getters — but the Canadian Forces and defence in Tory eyes now seem to constitute a swamp where no one dares to go.

    This is unfortunate, to say the least…”

    Quite. Mr Granatstein puts very well indeed my concluding point.

    The RCN wants 15 CSCs as one-for-one replacements for destroyers and frigates, its major surface combatants. But the size of that fleet was conditioned by Cold War requirements with the Soviets as enemies in mind and specific related NATO commitments to meet. The strategic situation now–whatever the government may think it to be (if it ever bothers to think in those terms)–is clearly very, very different. So why the requirement for exactly the same number of the same general type of ships? Enquiring minds…

    And I’ll bet the $41B service life cost for the CSCs does not/not include the “operating costs” that have been added to potential F-35 expenses such as personnel and fuel!

    Mark Collins

  2. MarkOttawa Says:

    Our shipbuilding program should be kept in mind when reading the following from DID’s “Rapid Fire”:


    Patrick Boissier, president of DCNS, is calling for [in French] rationalization of European naval programs, and between the lines, for a consolidation of suppliers on the continent: “Europeans can no longer afford the luxury of developing in parallel 6 frigate programs, 4 submarine programs and 3 torpedo programs.”

    In the same testimony to the French lower chamber, Boissier underlines how naval programs have turned into massive software projects. The Combat Management System on FREMM frigates weights 25 million lines of code, about the same scale as TCSE and other naval software used on US Zumwalt destroyers, almost 3 times the amount of code developed for F-35s, or an order of magnitude more than on a Rafale…’

    See also, with “Comments”:

    “French Firm Pitching for RCN Ship Orders”

    More Canada/FREMM stuff:

    And see here for British efforts–rejected–to get Canadian gov’t interest in their new frigates:

    Then there are the Germans:

    1) ‘German defence firm eyes frigate replacement [work, not building the ships]

    A German defence consortium accompanying Chancellor Angela Merkel has its sights on Canada’s plan to eventually replace its command destroyers and patrol frigates with a single class of modern warships, say a number of defence sources.

    The head of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems is one five German business tycoons who took part in Thursday’s meeting with Canadian counterparts on Parliament Hill.

    The company is already a major player in the Canadian navy’s plan to build new supply ships at the Seaspan yards in Vancouver.

    ThyssenKrupp Marine is under contract to consult, and observers widely expect the company’s Berlin-class design will end up being chosen as the basis for the new replenishment ships.

    But the bigger prize, according to industry sources, is the planned Canadian Single Class Surface Combatant Ship, which has yet to be given a firm price tag or start date.

    Following meetings in Ottawa, the German delegation left for Halifax — home to Irving Shipbuilding, the company heading up major warship production in Canada…

    According to defence insiders, ThyssenKrupp Marine is interested in getting in on the ground floor of the single-class design and the eventual installation of combat systems, such as radar, missiles and guns.

    That would be in keeping with the Harper government’s strategy, which mandates that the warships be built in Canada…

    A defence procurement expert said bending steel and building hulls is probably the least expensive element of building warships; the real money for contractors is in the weapons systems.

    “The government’s strategy of building at home doesn’t preclude those systems from coming from elsewhere,” said Phillipe Lagasse of the University of Ottawa…’

    2) ‘German marine firm eyes federal shipbuilding deals

    A German company specializing in high-tech marine systems has established a Saanich office to win public and private-sector contracts as Canada embarks on billions of dollars of spending to renew its combat and non-combat fleets.

    Rick Gerbrecht is president and chief executive of newly incorporated Atlas Elektronik Canada Ltd. Right now, he’s Atlas’s only employee at the Vancouver Island Technology Park on Markham Street but that is changing. He’s hiring four staff immediately.

    Two will work here and two will be in Ottawa.

    The pace of expansion will be governed by the amount of work that Atlas can line up in Canada. The company is looking specifically at opportunities at shipyards in North Vancouver, where federal non-combat vessels will be built by Seaspan Marine Corp., and in Halifax, where Irving Shipbuilding will construct combat ships…

    Atlas Elektronik Group is headquartered in Bremen, Germany and is a joint subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp and EADS.

    The company operates internationally and is already working on federal projects in Canada, including providing specific products for the Victoria Class submarines.

    Atlas Elektronik Group managing directors Dieter Rottsieper and Volker Paltzo said the company looks forward to “creating new partnerships with the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian authorities and companies.”

    Gerbrecht, who has spent two years on business development in Canada for the company, said Atlas can supply mine detection and disposal and sonar systems, as well as vessel traffic management security systems. It also produces autonomous underwater vehicles and security systems, Arctic surveillance systems and command and control systems.

    Atlas is ready to work with the private sector and is aiming to carry out research and development in Canada, he said…’

    Mark Collins

  3. MarkOttawa Says:

    Instead of the planned 15 CSC high-end frigate types, how about a mixed Canadian combat fleet, with say some OPV-type ships:

    The discussion of ship types (if not numbers!) at this post at “Thin Pinstriped Line” seems relevant to the RCN, note also the comments:

    “General Richards speech to the RUSI - Will the Royal Navy really get larger in the future?”

    The Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships will basically be constrained to waters off North America (unless someone plans to send them northeast of Iceland or westward from the Aleutians!). See also:

    “Guess What? RCN’s Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship Not a Real Warship, or, the Constabulary Navy”

    Mark Collins

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