Down to one sub
With Victoria out of water, Windsor only seaworthy sub
By Chris Lambie
The Daily News
HALIFAX – The navy is back down to one working submarine.
Of the four used subs Canada acquired from Britain for $891 million, Halifax’s HMCS Windsor is the only one that can go to sea. HMCS Victoria has stopped sailing from its British Columbia base and will go into an extended docking work period next month that will last almost two years.
“We have no choice,” said Lieut. Diane Grover of navy public affairs.
“It’s reality, but it’s very unfortunate. We are losing some valuable operational training with these vessels, having had them tied up alongside, and now having this mandated requirement to do some overhaul.”
Victoria needs to be recertified as “safe to dive,” Grover said. “It’s a time-limited certification, and it’s expiring,” she said.
Less than a week after an electrical fire killed one officer and ravaged the inside of HMCS Chicoutimi last October, its sister boats, Victoria and Windsor were pulled out of service.
Victoria and Windsor went back to sea recently after a naval board of inquiry delivered its final report into the accident, which claimed the life of Lieut. Chris Saunders, 32, of Halifax.
Corner Brook has been tied up in Halifax since April 2004. Submariners don’t expect to see it back in service for another eight months.
Chicoutimi went into a Halifax drydock last month. The navy predicts fixing the sub could cost as much as $15 million and take 18 months.
“We are ... somewhat frustrated because, obviously, we have great confidence in this submarine fleet, both in the value of the submarines themselves and then these particular submarines,” Grover said. “And unfortunately, with the whole Chicoutimi incident, our timeline has been moved to the right in terms of getting these boats fully operational and proving their value to Canada.”
The navy expects to see its first sub fully operational and able to fire torpedoes by 2009.
Some of Victoria’s crew will help with the sub’s maintenance, while others will continue training here on Windsor, Grover said.
One submarine is probably enough to keep all of Canada’s submariners trained properly, said Richard Gimblett, a former naval officer who is now a Dalhousie University defence analyst.
“Stuff has been slowed down for so long now that they don’t have a large body of submariners available right now,” Gimblett said. “Probably not enough to man all four submarines, anyway.”
One source estimated Canada has about 150 submariners — almost enough to man three subs. “But people are in various stages of training,” said the submariner, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
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