Canada: Victoria-Class Submarines Progress toward High Readiness

The Victoria-class submarine fleet continues to progress towards steady state when three of four submarines will be available for operations.

This will include a high readiness submarine available on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, HMCS Windsor and HMCS Victoria respectively, with a third submarine, HMCS Chicoutimi, available at standard readiness. HMCS Corner Brook will rotate into an Extended Docking Work Period (EDWP) upon completion of Chicoutimi’s EDWP. An EDWP provides the submarines’ 200-plus systems with the maintenance and upgrades needed to conduct operations on behalf of Canadians.

The following table provides a general overview of the current status of Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Victoria-class submarines:

fleet update

Information about the above table

  •  All dates are approximate as schedules can change according to the needs of the RCN.
  • The operational period refers to a cycle of activities that can range from sea trials, defect repair, scheduled maintenance conducted outside of an EDWP, training, weapons firing and other activities through to full operations. During this period, a Victoria-class Submarine can be at a variety of levels of readiness to conduct operations on behalf of Canadians.
  • A Victoria-class submarine is considered to have achieved operational status when it has been materially certified (successful completion of alongside tests and trials); manned with a qualified & experienced crew; and has been deemed safe to sail, conduct trials and execute operations in accordance with their readiness status.
  • The extent of a submarine’s capability is fundamentally a product of the states of personnel, materiel and collective team training resident within it. Once operational, a Victoria-class submarine will undergo a period of sea training to either achieve Standard Readiness (i.e. capable of conducting core naval training and executing assigned Canadian Armed Forces continental and expeditionary missions that do not entail the possibility of high intensity, full spectrum combat) or High Readiness (capable of conducting the full-spectrum of combat operations).

Victoria-class Achievements

The Canadian Victoria-class submarine fleet has been actively sailing since 2003 and has accumulated approximately 1131 days at sea, participating in exercises at home and overseas, patrolling Canadian coastal areas including the Arctic and participating in international operations. Highlights of the Victoria-class achievements are as follows:

  •  Her Majesty’s Canadian Submarine (HMCS) Victoria returned to sea in December 2011 and has spent 174 days at sea since then. Victoria torpedoed and sank a decommissioned United States Navy ship in the weapons testing range located near the island of Kauai, Hawaii during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in July 2012. Victoria is the first operational Victoria-class submarine to successfully target and sink another vessel with a MK 48 Heavyweight Torpedo.
  • HMCS Windsor sailed from June 2005 to December 2006 and spent 146 days at sea in 2006 alone. The boat participated in a number of large US-Canadian exercises and advanced and improved special operations forces capabilities, while training with Canadian ships in essential warfare skills. Windsor participated in the first-ever parachute rendezvous at sea practiced with Canada’s Patrol Pathfinders (Canadian Army paratroopers). The boat also conducted several sovereignty patrols off Canada’s east coast for intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance. Since returning to sea in December 2012, Windsor commenced her Tiered Readiness Program, a series of sea trials and crew training to prepare for future operations. Windsor continues to conduct local operations at sea to train submariners for the Victoria-class Submarine Fleet.
  • HMCS Corner Brook spent 463 days at sea between October 2006 and mid-June 2011. The boat participated in various NATO and Canada/U.S. exercises where she received high praise for her contribution as a simulated enemy to assist in the training of NATO and US surface and air forces. Corner Brook deployed to the Arctic in support of Operation NANOOK in August 2007 and again in August 2009, where she participated in a counter-narcotics exercise and conducted covert surveillance patrols in the vicinity of Baffin Island. In March 2008 and again in 2011, the boat also deployed as part of Operation CARIBBE, a US-led, multi-national effort to interdict drug trafficking in the waters of the Caribbean Basin and the Eastern Pacific.

In 2008, Treasury Board approved the expenditure of up to $1.5 billion over a period of up to 15 years for the in-service support for the Victoria-class submarines. The contract was awarded competitively to the Canadian Submarine Management Group, now renamed Babcock Canada Inc. In June 2013, the Government of Canada exercised the first five-year extension option of this support, worth $531 million. All Victoria-class EDWP’s during this in-service support contract, commencing with the Chicoutimi EDWP, will be funded and managed through VISSC.

Given that submarines are amongst the most highly complex machines that exist, maintaining them can be a costly process. Highly rigorous and regularly scheduled maintenance periods are an essential element of the operational cycle of any class of submarine.

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Press Release, July 11, 2013