Canada’s first ship for Arc­tic hits wa­ter

Times Colonist - - Canada / World - ALEX COOKE

HAL­I­FAX — The ship that will be­come Canada’s first Arc­tic and Off­shore Pa­trol Ves­sel met wa­ter for the first time Satur­day, the first of up to six ves­sels of its kind be­ing built by Hal­i­fax’s Irv­ing Ship­build­ing.

The fu­ture HMCS Harry DeWolf was towed to its launch site in the Bed­ford Basin on a sub­mersible barge on Satur­day, be­gin­ning an up to 24-hour long process where the barge is sub­merged and the ves­sel is taken back to the ship­yard, where work will con­tinue ahead of its de­liv­ery to the Royal Cana­dian Navy in sum­mer 2019.

Even though it’s been launched, the ship has yet to be of­fi­cially named in a nam­ing cer­e­mony — tech­ni­cally, its name is still “Irv­ing Hull 103” — and staff still need to work to pre­pare the ship for up­com­ing tri­als.

Ken Hansen, a re­tired Navy com­man­der and de­fence an­a­lyst, said the fu­ture HMCS Harry DeWolf will need to go through rig­or­ous test­ing be­fore the coun­try can use it.

“The ship will be tested by Irv­ing’s peo­ple to make sure ev­ery­thing works ac­cord­ing to the spec­i­fi­ca­tions in the con­tract … then the Navy will work to­gether with the ship­yard, and once the Navy has ac­cepted the ship, they’ll sign it off, and it will of­fi­cially be­come HMCS,” Hansen said.

The ship, which will be named af­ter for­mer Vice-Ad­mi­ral Harry Ge­orge DeWolf, is the first of at least five Arc­tic and Off­shore Pa­trol Ves­sels tasked with pa­trolling Cana­dian wa­ters, in­clud­ing the Arc­tic.

The Navy said there is “an op­tion for a sixth.”

As­sem­bly is also un­der­way at the Hal­i­fax ship­yard for the fu­ture HMCS Mar­garet Brooke and Max Ber­nays.

Hansen said th­ese ships — out­fit­ted with a flight deck, res­cue boats, and a re­mote-con­trolled 25-mm gun — could aid in dis­as­ter or hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse mis­sions.

“They’re go­ing to be very flex­i­ble, they’re go­ing to have mul­ti­ple roles, and I think, be­cause they’re quite ef­fi­cient to op­er­ate, they’re go­ing to be busy,” he said.

“When some­thing like a hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance mis­sion comes along, it will prob­a­bly be th­ese ships that go, rather than the frigates or de­stroy­ers.”

Irv­ing will also build 15 ves­sels un­der the Cana­dian Sur­face Com­bat­ant project over the next 25 years.

Colin Dar­ling­ton, a for­mer Navy com­man­der and the vi­cepres­i­dent of the Royal United Ser­vices In­sti­tute of Nova Sco­tia, said the HMCS Harry DeWolf launch is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause not only will it be the coun­try’s first Arc­tic and Off­shore Pa­trol Ves­sel, it will also be the first large ship the Cana­dian Navy will re­ceive in 20 years.

“It’s a re­cap­i­tal­iza­tion in the Navy,” he said, not­ing the As­terix, launched in 2010, is owned by the Fed­eral Fleet Ser­vices.

“To go 20 years with­out a new ship has ad­verse ef­fects: whether it be train­ing or op­er­a­tions, you’re work­ing with older and older equip­ment.”

While some Navy ships al­ready ven­ture up north, Dar­ling­ton said th­ese will be the first pa­trol ships specif­i­cally built to han­dle se­vere north­ern cli­mates.

In a May 2017 re­port, how­ever, the Se­nate’s Com­mit­tee on Na­tional Se­cu­rity and De­fence out­lined con­cerns it had over the $3.5-bil­lion Arc­tic and Off­shore Pa­trol Ships project.

“Th­ese Arc­tic pa­trol ves­sels will be un­able to break ice that is more than a me­tre thick, and will only be able to op­er­ate in the arc­tic be­tween June and Oc­to­ber, still re­quir­ing a coast guard ice­breaker as es­cort; they are slower than a B.C. Ferry at 17 knots, and will lack sig­nif­i­cant force pro­jec­tion in the form of weapons sys­tem,” the re­port stated.

“Th­ese lim­i­ta­tions are trou­bling and raise the ques­tion of whether the tax­pay­ers are re­ceiv­ing value for the monies spent.”

But Dar­ling­ton said the oneme­tre ice­break­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties will en­able the ship to get to most places where it will be needed, not­ing that the ship is not a des­ig­nated ice­breaker.

He added that the ship’s gun is stan­dard for a pa­trol ves­sel, and if it finds it­self in an un­likely sit­u­a­tion where more fire­power is needed, that would be pro­vided by strike air­craft or ma­jor war­ships.

“The ship will be able to func­tion all of where she’ll need to func­tion,” he said. “You don’t need to have a ma­jor com­bat­ant ca­pa­bil­ity in ev­ery ship; you can’t af­ford that. The Harry DeWolf has to be looked upon as part of an over­all Navy ca­pa­bil­ity.”

Ac­cord­ing to Irv­ing, the ves­sel is the largest Royal Cana­dian Navy ship built in Canada in 50 years, at 103 me­tres long and 6,615 tonnes.

TED PRITCHARD, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The Arc­tic and Off­shore Pa­trol Ves­sel to be named HMCS Harry DeWolf, the first Cana­dian pa­trol ship specif­i­cally built to han­dle se­vere north­ern cli­mates, rests on the launch deck of the Boabarge 37 in Hal­i­fax’s Bed­ford Basin on Satur­day as it be­gins the process of be­ing floated by a sub­merg­ing sup­port ves­sel.

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