Reprinted with permission from AMI HOT NEWS, an internet publication AMI International, PO Box 30, Bremerton, Washington, 98337.
From the October 2004 Issue
CANADA-The Future of the Victoria (Upholder) Class Submarine
On 06 October 2004, a fire broke out on the Canadian Navy (CN) submarine, the HMCS CHICOUTIMI (ex-UPHOLDER) as it transited from the United Kingdom (UK) to Canada. The cause of the fire is currently unknown, however, it is the latest in a series of setbacks for the CN submarine program.
The submarines, built from 1983 through 1988 were decommissioned by the Royal Navy (RN) in 1994 due to defense cutbacks associated with the end of the Cold War. Canada, lacking a submarine since the retirement of the Oberon class in the mid 1990s, decided to lease four units of the class under a lease/purchase program.
The agreement, formally announced on 06 April 1998, called for a US$525M eight-year lease-to-buy, interest free contract with the UK, with an option for outright purchase at the end of the lease for a nominal fee of one pound sterling with US$426M for the actual lease/purchase/reactivation of the submarines and the balance going to training, modifications, and spare parts.
The first three units were delivered to the CN from 2000 through 2003 with the final unit, HMCS CHICOUTIMI (ex-UPHOLDER), being transferred on 02 October 2004. The problems currently being experienced by the HMCS CHICOUTIMI continue with a trend that began since the deliveries started in 2000. It appears that the first three units (VICTORIA, WINDSOR and CORNER BROOK) have been plagued with problems since transfer. Some of the complaints by Canadian naval officers include overheating, leaking of valves and the hull as well as rusting.
This procurement has to be a dilemma for the sea service since it had planned to purchase all four of the units outright in 2006 when the lease expires and keep the vessels in service for at lest 25 years. The Navy also had plans to replace the Mk 48 torpedo system and procure a surface-to-air missile (SAM), as well as possibly adding an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system).
With 2006 approaching rapidly, the CN will soon have to decide on whether to stick with the Victoria class and procure the submarines outright in 2006 or cut its losses and move on to another submarine program, neither of which will probably be popular with the Canadian government.
DENMARK-Departing the Submarine Business, Who Will Take Them
In June 2004, Denmark’s Ministry of Defense released the Danish Defence Agreement 2005-2009. One of the highlights of the agreement was the announcement that the Danish Navy would exit the submarine business with all four units (three Tumerlen and one Nackan class) to be retired. As of early October 2004, AMI has received information that all four units would be decommissioned by 01January2005. With the decommissioning of the four units, one must examine the potential for resale in the used ship market.
The single Nacken class (KRONBORG) was received from Sweden under a lease, buy or return program on 17 August 200 I. The lease, buy, return contract is set to expire in 2005, which makes the Danish Navy decision easy. With the return of the Nacken to Sweden, it opens up new possibilities for the resale from Sweden. In September 2004, the USN began discussing with the Swedish Navy the lease of a Swedish submarine with crew to conduct training in the Baltic region. The USN, without any conventional submarines in inventory, wishes to shore up its training against non-nuclear submarines. However, it must be noted that there is some resistance in the Swedish government concerning the leasing of a submarine and crew to the US. It is possible that with the return of the Nacken from Denmark that the US could purchase the Nacken and forego the lease option for an active Swedish submarine. The purchase of the Nacken would have a drawback as the US has very limited experience in operating conventionally-powered submarines, but perhaps a Danish crew could bring the USN up to speed.
In regards to the three Kobben class, these vessels were originally built in the 1980s and will be very difficult to transfer, although possibilities do exist. There are several countries that do not have a submarine capability but wish to establish the capability and several nations that are transitioning their naval forces from the Soviet-era to a Western force. In regards to establishing a Submarine Force, it can be an extremely expensive endeavor especially considering the vessels are approaching 40 years of age. In regards to Bulgaria and Romania that are transitioning to a Western force since joining NA TO, it might be an attractive option. Recent reporting suggests that the Bulgarian Navy is interested in possibly acquiring one of the Kobben class to replace its obsolete/non-operational Romeo class.
The countries that have expressed a desire to establish or reestablish a Submarine Force include Thailand, Phillippines and the United Arab Emirates. However, as mentioned above, purchase of the Danish Kobben class must be considered extremely remote for these three candidates.
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