Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Goodbye to an old grey cold warrior

HMCS Huron is about to become a target. Built in the early 1970s, she served most of her early years, with all of her sister ships, in the Atlantic. That was a result of admirals and politicians who had eastward looking eyes and couldn't pry themselves away from World War II.

Huron was the first of Canada's 280 class destroyers to be sent to the Pacific. Regardless of what anyone says, she was something of a disappointment. The Canadian navy was struggling with budget problems and, while they hyped the ship to our USN counterparts, she was nowhere near as capable as advertised in her 1970s configuration.

She and her three sister ships were modernized in the 1990s. The anti-submarine role for which they had originally been built took second place to a new role as an area defence ship. When Huron and her sisters emerged from modernization refits they were highly capable. They could defend a task group against anything that flew.

She is an old ship now, as are all the 280 class destroyers. Three decades is a long time for a warship, especially a small one like a destroyer, and Canada works them hard.

Huron, however, was fated to retire early. It's not that she wasn't capable but, budget cuts and a horrific attrition rate among naval trades left the navy with too few people to man a very small number of ships. Huron suffered the kiss of death: cold reserve.

No ship in the Canadian navy has ever come out of cold reserve.

In March 2006, HMCS Huron was officially decommissioned. Last Wednesday it was announced that she would be disposed of, after being completely stripped-out, as a target ship.

It doesn't matter how she dies. The Canadian navy needs to make it clear that our ocean-going navy is now one more ship smaller. That means quit advertising four destroyers. There are three and you can bet that HMCS Athabaskan is going to go soon.

There is a concept configuration for replacement ships, sort of. They even have a weapons package picked out for them. But, no ships on the drawing board. And, they won't be there as long as the clowns at Fort Fumble on the Rideau have ridiculous visions of armed ice-breakers dancing in their heads.

For all her faults, Huron was a pretty good ship. I can't say I liked that long haul to the Operations Room and the Bridge always felt like it was designed by people who had watched too much Sesame Street.

While it may sound a little odd to be blowing up a ship which underwent extensive modification within the last decade, we at least got some service out of our older ships.

These guys are blowing up the good stuff.

No comments: