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Replacing the Subs

Eye In The Sky

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In a few years there won't be Russian subs able to leave ports on the current course of action of the Russian gov. Now if you change that to PLAN subs I would say very much too. They are claiming now to be near artic nation.

You’re underestimating how modern the RFN subs are then IMO. Borei class and Yasen…nothing to scoff about. Especially given our sub fleet.
 

Eye In The Sky

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That's a decent summary of the options from this thread. Getting real here, no way we are getting SSNs, if we were, politically we'd have made those plans public and joined hands with Australia.

I think our defence dollars would be better spread across multiple arctic-capable platforms instead.

Imagine spending $50B on a handful of SSNs, or spending that on a combination of P-8s, UAVs, XLUUVs, BV replacements, ice-strengthened AORs/supply vessels, more rotary AC or C-130s. What would be more militarily useful? Heck even just investing in infrastructure projects or expanding the Rangers in some way.

The best ASW platform is…a capable sub.

The strategic value of a truly capable sub, that had a land attack ability, ICBM type capability, anti ship capability (thinking Oscar II) etc is very undervalued. WWII should have taught us the ability these systems have to choke a nation and/or it’s expeditionary forces.
 

Spencer100

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You’re underestimating how modern the RFN subs are then IMO. Borei class and Yasen…nothing to scoff about. Especially given our sub fleet.
No I was not meaning their subs were not capable. I am talking about their ability to keep them running without access to the global supply chains. Example Semi-conductors and Computer chips. Plus the Russian military will be having many competing issues and programs to restock their inventory of jets, tanks and ships. All of those program with be looking for resources and money. I doubt everything will be funded or able to be done. But you are right that the subs maybe very high on the list. Subs look to be the area Russian equipment is up to par. But it has not been tested.

Exanple. Watched more videos of ERA tiles just filled with rubber. Who knows if true. I would suspect the market for Russian tanks is going to be much smaller now. Is there parts or systems like that in the subs. Subs maybe harder to pull BS on because when it dives you are going to find out if corners were cut.
 

GR66

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Realistically with all the other spending priorities I think we're quite probably looking at a Submarine REPLACEMENT project rather than a Submarine ENHANCEMENT project. We have four subs currently. Likely the project will be to replace them with four new subs. I'd be pleasantly surprised if they went for six and would absolutely pass out from shock if they went for eight.

So based on those kind of numbers (lets say a maximum of four subs per coast - one coast only if we get four total and four per coast if we win the lottery and get eight) lets look at the pluses and minuses (I'm sure that I've missed many) of the options that @KevinB suggested:

Realistic options are:
1) Divest the sub surface fleet, get rid of SS trades
Plus
  • Cost of new subs can be used instead for other capabilities
  • Frees up PYs for other parts of the RCN
  • Eliminates a full training/sustainment stream from the Navy
Minus
  • We lose a whole major combat and surveillance capability that can't be fully replicated by other assets
  • Lose an ASW training platform for the surface/MH/MPA fleets
2) Divest the sub surface fleet, and send SS crews on Brit and US Nuke boats.
Plus
  • Cost of new subs can be used instead for other capabilities
  • RCN gets experience in SSN operations
  • Maintains basic capability in Submarine Ops in case we purchase new subs in the future
Minus
  • A hard political sell to both nationalists and anti-nuc groups (and possibly to some Americans)
  • We would not have a say in how or where the boats operate. US/British subs may undertake operations that are not in our national interest.
  • Even if the boats were fully Canadian crewed there would always be serious strings attached if they were physically owned by another nation.
3) Buy new AIP boats and live with constraints (winter work conditions limited by AOPS support)
Plus
  • RCN more or less maintains our current capabilities with a newer platform.
Minus
  • Cost of the submarines (and their infrastructure/support/PYs) could potentially have been used on other priorities (proper comparative cost-benefit analysis should be done).
  • Any conventional/AIP sub we get would face the same limitations we have currently re: Arctic operations but also in terms of expeditionary operations outside our home waters.
4) Buy insanely expensive Ice Breaching AIP bespoke fleet
Plus
  • RCN maintains our current capabilities with a newer platform plus gets the added ability to conduct under ice operations without the political baggage of introducing nuclear powered boats to the fleet.
Minus
  • The cost of a custom design would be much higher than any other "Canadianized" version of an existing design.
  • Cost of the submarines (and their infrastructure/support/PYs) could potentially have been used on other priorities (proper comparative cost-benefit analysis should be done).
  • While we would gain the capability of under ice operations, being conventionally powered the subs would still face difficulty performing distant expeditionary operations.
5) SSN buy in with Oz/UK/US.
Plus
  • RCN gets the most capable submarines for the fleet with the capability for both under-ice and expeditionary operations.
Minus
  • This option has the highest cost of all the options which could cut into other spending requirements or result in a smaller fleet of subs being procured compared to the other options.
  • There would be political objections from some quarters to the purchase of nuclear powered subs that would have to be overcome.
  • Cost of the submarines (and their infrastructure/support/PYs) could potentially have been used on other priorities (proper comparative cost-benefit analysis should be done).
  • Supporting nuclear subs would require either a massive infrastructure (and training) investment or a politically tricky foreign basing agreement.

In my dream world I would love for the RCN to get 8-12 SSNs but realistically (both politically and economically) I simply can't see that happening. Similarly I don't see any government wanting to spend the political capital to pitch having Canadian submariners manning foreign submarines (beyond exchange-type arrangements).

So that really leaves divestment or conventional/AIP replacement as the realistic options (I think a bespoke design would be far too risky and far too expensive to even consider).

I think that a reasonable argument could be made for divestment. Subs and their infrastructure/support are very expensive. While submarines have great capabilities, the tiny size of our sub fleet (especially in relation to the vast maritime areas we need to defend) means that our ability to leverage that capability in an impactful way during a conflict is quite limited.

For the cost of maintaining a (small) submarine fleet you could invest in other capabilities (MPAs, UUVs/USVs, undersea sensors, satellites, etc.) that could replace some of the capabilities of the subs but in greater numbers which could provide greater overall coverage than the subs they would replace. We could also invest in novel technologies that could possibly have the ability to make submerged submarines more easily detectable.

On the other hand as @Eye In The Sky has noted, subs have proved in both World Wars (and the Falklands) that they can have a major strategic impact on a conflict.

If I honestly thought that the CAF would come up with an forward looking plan to control our maritime domain with an integrated network of manned and unmanned surface and subsurface vessels, aircraft, UAVs, remote sensors, satellites, research in new technologies, etc. that could replace the subs and increase our overall domain awareness and ability to respond to incursions and that the government would properly fund those plans then I might fall on the side of divestment.

But since I don't believe that to be the case I'd say that the RCN should push for replacement of the Victoria-class with as many AIP-equipped replacement subs that they can get away with.
 

Maxman1

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Non-orphane options would be, for instance, joining the Type 212CD or the next Dutch Walrus-replacement, if we discard the under-ice capability.

Or there's the Shortfin Barracuda/Attack class, which France is currently offering to the Netherlands to replace the Walrus class, which is the same version that was selected (and later cancelled) by Australia. It will have an 18,000 nm range, 80 day endurance and be able to launch Harpoon and Tomahawk missiles from the torpedo tubes in addition to Mk 48s (the Barracuda/Suffren class carries Exocets, Storm Shadow cruise missiles and MICA anti-air missiles), with a crew of 60 and room for 15 commando troops.

The high cost was due to the plan to build them in Australia, which would require a transfer of technology and extensive infrastructure upgrades in Australian shipyards, something that would avoided if they were built in France by Naval Group.
 

JMCanada

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Actually the next Dutch Walrus-replacement is still open among three contenders: French Barracuda, Swedish A26 and German Type 212 variant or Type 216 (not sure which one).
 

Maxman1

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Actually the next Dutch Walrus-replacement is still open among three contenders: French Barracuda, Swedish A26 and German Type 212 variant or Type 216 (not sure which one).

Yes, hence "currently offering" and not "selected".

ThyssenKrupp is planning to offer the Type 212CD, which has been ordered by both the German Navy and the Norwegian Navy.
 
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