July 10, 2007
Canada to build Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday announced plans for the construction of up to eight Polar Class 5 Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships and the establishment of a deep water port in the far North.
The plans are an effort to assert Canadian territorial claims in the Arctic that are disputed by a number of nations, including the U.S.
The Polar Class 5 Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships will be custom-designed and built in Canada and, it is said will be amongst the heaviest, most versatile armed naval vessels capable of sustained operations in ice.
What they will not be, however, is the heavy icebreakers capable of year round operation that Harper's party promised in an election pledge.
They will, though, be capable of operating in ice up to one meter thick, and each vessel will also be equipped with a helicopter landing pad. They will be able to patrol the length of the Northwest Passage during the summer navigable season and its approaches year-round, and will also be capable of full operations on the East and West Coasts throughout the year.
"In defending our nation's sovereignty, nothing is as fundamental as protecting Canada's territorial integrity; our borders, our airspace and our waters," said Harper. "More and more, as global commerce routes chart a path to Canada's North and as the oil, gas and minerals of this frontier become more valuable, northern resource development will grow ever more critical to our country."
The estimated cost of acquiring the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships is Canadian $3.1 billion, with approximately Canadian $4.3 billion provided for operations and maintenance over their 25-year lifespan.
The procurement strategy will conform to the Canadian Shipbuilding Policy Framework, which requires the federal government to procure, repair and refit vessels in Canada.
Currently, the Canadian Navy can patrol the coastal waters of Canada's East and West Coasts, but it does not have the capability to effectively patrol all three oceans. The Navy can only operate in northern waters for a short period of time, and only when there is no ice.
Canada's current Kingston-Class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDV) have limited ability to operate in the open ocean, cannot support a helicopter, and are restricted in their capacity to support boarding operations. The Navy must use its large combatant vessels--destroyers and frigates--which are expensive to operate, to patrol the open ocean.
To fill this capability gap, the Polar Class 5 Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (A/OPSs). will provide the flexibility for the Navy to operate in both the Arctic and offshore environments, allowing them to be used year-round in a variety of roles, including domestic surveillance, search and rescue and support to other government departments.
A ship with these capabilities does not currently exist and will have to be designed to meet a series of high-level requirements:
Seakeeping: The A/OPSs must be able to operate independently and effectively in Canada's EEZs, including such diverse environments as the Canadian Arctic, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and the Northwest Coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands. The ship must also be capable of navigating the St. Lawrence River year-round and berthing at Quebec City.
Ice Capability: The hull of the A/OPS must be ice strengthened to operate in medium first-year ice (ice up to one meter thick), which may include old ice inclusions --old ice that is denser and may strike the hull of the ship. This ice capability is exclusively for the ships' own mobility, not to provide icebreaking services to other ships.
Endurance/Range: The ship must have the ability to sustain operations for up to four months and must have a range of at least 6,000 nautical miles.
Command and Control: The ship's electronic equipment must have the ability to ensure safety of navigation and flight, as well as sufficient command, control and communications capability to provide and receive real-time information to and from the CF Common Operating Picture.
Speed: The ship must be able to maintain an economical speed of 14 knots and attain a maximum speed of at least 20 knots.
Armament: The ship must have gun armament to assert Canadian sovereignty.
Boat Operations: The ship's crew must be able to conduct boat operations in up to sea state four, support operations ashore via landing craft and support naval boarding parties.
Class Life: The six to eight ships should remain operational for 25 years.
The ship may also be designed to embark and operate an on-board helicopter, as well as house one flying crew and one maintenance crew.
The two-phased procurement process for these vessels is promised to be "fair and transparent." The procurement strategy will conform to the Canadian Shipbuilding Policy Framework, which requires the federal government to procure, repair and refit vessels in Canada.
A project definition phase of 24 months will be needed to develop the functional design, refine the high-level statement of operational requirements (SORs), complete and issue the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the implementation phase of the project and evaluate responses. A competitive process will be used to select a Definition, Engineering, Logistics and Management Support (DELMS) contractor, who will develop the design used to refine the requirements and provide input into the RFP. During this time, consulting engineering contractors will also deliver a functional design for the infrastructure needed to support the A/OPS.
Throughout the project definition phase, industry will be kept engaged and informed of progress and design work. Interest from industry will be sought through a Letter of Interest to allow potential bidders to self-identify, and qualified teams will be invited to comment on the draft project implementation (PI) RFP. The definition phase of the procurement process would end with the release and evaluation of this RFP.
The implementation phase of the process would involve the successful contractor completing a detailed design of the ships, followed by construction and the provision of integrated logistics support, and initial in-service support.
During this phase of the process, realty assets required for a docking and refueling facility in Nunavut will also be acquired, and contracts will also be awarded for the construction and completion of the support infrastructure needed.