Here's the fate of the Chicoutimi....
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Chicoutimi becomes spare-parts bin
Sub donor to operational fleet, documents reveal
By CHRIS LAMBIE, Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 28 Jun 06
The navy is using HMCS Chicoutimi as a source of spare parts to keep its other used submarines running.
Even before the navy announced in April it was putting off repairs to the fire-damaged sub until 2010, the military planned to use Chicoutimi for spares.
"In the early stages of this project, HMCS Chicoutimi will be required to be a "donor’ to the operational fleet and it is expected that (transfer requirements) will cause additional work," say navy documents obtained under the Access to Information Act.
Commodore Bob Davidson, who just took over command of the Atlantic fleet, confirmed Tuesday that some parts from Chicoutimi will go into other subs.
"There will be some bits that will be used elsewhere because that’s what we always do," said Commodore Davidson, a former submarine commander.
"We’re not going to turn it into a spare-parts bin . . . but there will be pieces of equipment that we will use."
While "some bits and pieces out of Chicoutimi" will be removed, "the aim is to keep her as intact as possible because we’re going to put her back in the water," he said. "We’ll eventually be running four submarines again."
The "quickest place" to get spares is often from a vessel that’s not being used, said Commodore Dean McFadden, who takes over in August from Rear Admiral Dan McNeil as the commander of Joint Task Force Atlantic.
"I’ve got no doubt that we will take parts from Chicoutimi and use them in the other boats when we need them," said Commodore McFadden, the former commander of the Atlantic fleet.
But he vowed they will eventually be replaced so "she can do the job the same way as any of the other submarines."
The sub has been sitting in dry dock at the Halifax Shipyard since last spring because of a fire on board on Oct. 5, 2004, that killed Lieut. Chris Saunders of Halifax.
The work to make Chicoutimi seaworthy again — pegged at $100 million — won’t start until 2010. According to the navy, the sub will return to active duty in 2012, eight years after it last went to sea.
Commodore Davidson said he’s not worried using Chicoutimi for spare parts could delay that return to duty.
"Will there be an arising? Well, I don’t know. I can’t make any promises there. Nobody can," he said. "But I don’t think so. I think we’ll be able to put her back in the water and get her running in the time frame that we’ve laid out."
Chicoutimi has a history of being used for spare parts.
In December 2004, a former navy electrician told the Commons defence committee Chicoutimi was so full of holes "she looked like Swiss cheese" as she sat in a British dry dock in January 2000.
Gerry O’Keefe, a former petty officer second class who left the navy in 2003 after 23 years, said his first impression of Chicoutimi, then called HMS Upholder, was: "Sweet mother of God, they want us to sail in this?"
"There weren’t enough parts on there to make the boat float," he told the committee.
Crews refitting the first three subs had "robbed" parts from Chicoutimi to make the other submarines run, he said, adding that in the engine room there were two large holes where backup valves had once been.
"There were more holes than you could shake a stick at; the submarine looked like Swiss cheese," said Mr. O’Keefe, who suffered post-traumatic stress after a 2002 flood aboard another of the submarines, HMCS Corner Brook.
Using Chicoutimi for spare parts was one of the main delays in getting the sub ready to go to sea before the 2004 fire. The British Defence Ministry cannibalized Chicoutimi for parts in an attempt to get Canada’s other three subs working — a practice the Canadian navy strongly denied at the time.
Three of the diesel-electric subs are now in Halifax and the other is based in Esquimalt, B.C.
Canada announced the purchase of four mothballed subs from Britain in 1998. So far, buying and maintaining them has cost about $1.2 billion.
Only one of the subs, HMCS Windsor, is now able to go to sea. That sub is slated to sail until this winter, when it will go into a long work period ashore. The navy is hoping to get HMCS Corner Brook to sea later this summer to replace Windsor as the military’s lone working sub.
HMCS Victoria went into an extended docking work period on the West Coast last summer. It won’t be operational until the spring of 2009.
Windsor has recently been "involved in some pretty high-level exercises with the Americans where we’ve surprised them," Commodore Davidson said.
"Nobody knew where (the sub) was and it ended up being quite close to the opposition forces. I don’t think they even knew at the time that it was that close. These submarines are actually excellent submarines and what we’re proving is that, once we get them running, we get great things out of them."
The navy plans to reach what it calls a steady state by 2009, where two submarines will be operating at one time. That will happen briefly this fall.
"This autumn will be fabulous because we’ll actually have two submarines running," Commodore Davidson said. "Both Corner Brook and Windsor will be busy and active, both providing services for Canada and for the fleet."