Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Another Harper procurement fiasco

#Cdnpoli - 

They keep on coming and now, after totally screwing up the Joint Support Ship project, we have one of Harper's own hobby-horses being stuffed into the quicksand and now it's the navy looking want. (Emphasis mine)

The Conservative government's list of troubled multi-billion-dollar military procurement projects continues to grow as a plan to obtain a fleet of armed vessels to patrol Canada's Arctic waters has been hit with a three-year delay.

The Defence Department had been expecting to take delivery of Canada's first of between six and eight Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships in 2015.

But documents tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday show the timeline has been pushed back to 2018. In addition, the $3.1-billion project is now expected to cost $40 million more than anticipated.
Well, isn't that brilliant? Here's something you probably didn't know: There is no real statement of requirements for these ships because the RCN really didn't want them. Until Harper invented the idea, the RCN had no requirement for an ice-breaking fleet.

Ice-breaking in the Arctic is a Coast Guard function. The RCN is a war-fighting, deep water, deterrent force. They project power. Constabulary, patrol and navigation safety responsibilities in the Arctic fall within the province of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the RCMP Marine Section and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Surveillance and defence? The Canadian Armed Forces do that.

What's the worst possible way to do that? A surface ship crunching through Arctic ice, occasionally ice-bound, often unable to go where it needs to go. Not to mention that even new Arctic ice can be deadly to protruding electro-acoustic transducers and pressure transponders - the stuff that makes a warship a high tech detection system.

But that didn't matter to the one-dimensional thinking Harperistas. Some clot in Calgary envisioned a light grey ship in the middle of an ice-floe with an off-the-shelf gun mounted on the focsle and it became "policy".

A permanently fixed passive acoustic surveillance network would ultimately provide the best early warning system in the Arctic but that has not worked for the same reason an Arctic patrol ship would not have serious effect. The ice is continually moving and it eats everything in its path, including the antenna required to forward a signal.

That means that the best way to patrol the Arctic, with the assurance of detecting any activity, is a submarine capable of under-ice operations. Canada doesn't have any and it was a Conservative government which cancelled the only program which would have provided them. 

The navy, having never asked for these ships, has another problem. There are no crews. Unless the Harper government increases the established personnel strength of the RCN, the only way to staff these mythical ships will be by way of the naval reserve who have no Arctic capability, no ice-breaking expertise and most definitely do not possess the refined professional qualifications to operate a full-time flotilla of 21st Century warships. (That's not knocking the RCNR. The reservists do a great deal of the current maritime coastal defence work). Can the reservists be trained? Sure they can. But at that point you might as well make them regulars because it will take at least three years to develop a properly trained force, in full time training and then fully employ them.

Of course a big part of the plan to build magical Arctic patrol ships included building an Arctic base from which to operate. So much for that idea.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's much-ballyhooed plan to build a naval facility at Nanisivik, Nunavut shrank dramatically last month, when Department of National Defence officials told regulators about big cutbacks to the project.

"The planned changes result in a significant reduction of the site layout and function plan that was submitted for review in 2011," DND's project manager, Rodney Watson, said in a Feb. 24 letter to the Nunavut Impact Review Board, which is now screening the project.
Under DND's new scheme, the Nanisivik naval facility on Baffin Island would become a part-time summer-only fuelling station for Ottawa's proposed fleet of Arctic offshore patrol ships, along with other federal government vessels.

"The facility will only be operational during the navigable (summer) season. All facilities will be shut down and secured when not in use. On-site support will likely be reduced to an as-needed basis," Watson said. 
The Harperites talk large. They deliver something completely different. Nothing.

Hat tip Kevin. (Yes ... we in the swamp are a team).


Boris said...

Sigh. When this Arctic warship stuff was first announced, the first thing thought I was "how do you fight a ship in ice?" and erroneously thought that someone had at least theorised about it. At least the fictional Mulroney era nuclear submarines might have been useful.

Dana said...

Dave, did you notice this one?

Steve said...

Maybe we could close all those forward operating bases around the world and build one in the Artic

geoff said...

And now this morning the latest from our group of neanderthals, :

Malory "Innocent Meat" Knox said...

So when our country is sinking in debt and our households are loosing their ground (like pointed in How Dangerous is High Household Debt for the Economy), the best thing we can do is to construct a fighting ice ship? This is a great idea indeed...
Mr. Harper, you are a great politician and I hope you will win again in the next election.