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HMCS Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS)

The federal government announced in 2007 that it would procure a fleet of 8 light icebreaker patrol ships for the Canadian Forces. The Arctic Patrol Ship Project is based on a Royal Norwegian Navy patrol boat design used in the Barents Sea with a polar class of PC 5; thus they will be significantly smaller and less capable than what was envisioned in the Polar 8 Project, which would have extended the capabilities of the Canadian Coast Guard's operations in the Arctic Ocean. Some media and political sources termed these new patrol vessels, with limited ice capability, as mere "slush breakers".

The Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship project consumed substantial quantities of both ink and airtime. This, in part, reflects Canadians' seemingly inborn fascination with issues of sovereignty, security, and stewardship in the north, an interest and concern thrown into even sharper relief by global warming. Bloggers had a field day, deeming the AOPS every- thing from "slushbreakers" to "lightweight patrol divas" and "goofy dock queens." When the ice can be six metres thick, Canada would get a boat that can go through one meter. Basically, for part of the year the boats will be on the east and west coast, giving up the north, when Canada are having conflicts with other countries.

Affordability-driven cutbacks - both quantitative and qualitative - will leave the ships woefully deficient in sensors, speed, armament, and other capabilities, and, consequently, in overall utility and cost-effectiveness. Arguably the only real consensus between the factions is that the original Conservative plan for three "armed naval heavy icebreakers" was ill-considered. How and why the three "armed naval heavy icebreakers" mooted by the Conservatives in the 2006 election campaign morphed into six to eight comparatively modest Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships drew considerable attention.

As the Montreal Gazette posited on 11 July 2007, the Harper government "...has now backed away from earlier plans to show the flag up north in a convincing year-round way. [The new] plan to build six, seven or eight new Arctic patrol vessels ... is a half-measure that Canadians might one day regret. If he really believes this scaled-back presence is appropriate, Harper should explain, in more detail, why he has abandoned the ambitious plan on which he campaigned in 2006." Also apparent is a fear that the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship - dubbed a 'slushbreaker' by more than one commentator - will siphon money from the urgently required recapitalization of the coast guard's icebreaker fleet.

The Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) Project has been established in order to deliver to the government of Canada a naval ice-capable offshore patrol ship to assert and enforce sovereignty in Canada's waters including the Arctic. As of 2007 it was planned that the first A/OPS would be acquired until 2013 and the last about 2017. Information available from unofficial sources currently indicates that each vessel will be in the area of 100 meters long with a displacement of 3,000 tons. Denmark has four Thetis-class frigates designed for sovereignty and fisheries protection. They are strengthened for operations in up to one meter of ice, and patrol waters around Greenland and the Faroe Islands. They are 369' loa x 47' beam, 3,500 tons full load displacement, armed with a 76-mm gun and a Lynx helicopter, have excellent endurance (8,500 nm at 15.5 knots) and a small crew of 60 with 30 additional bunks. The Norwegian Coast Guard's Arctic Patrol Vessel Svalbard, completed in 2002, is shorter and more beamy than Thetis at 340' x 62.7', has a 57-mm gun, also operates a medium helicopter, and has a long endurance (10,000 nm at 13 knots). Svalbard has a broad-beamed hull, a slower maximum speed of 17.5 knots, and at 6,300 tons is a very substantial vessel.

Project Deliverables

The AOPS Project will deliver to the Canadian Forces six to eight fully supported Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships capable of:

  • conducting armed sea-borne surveillance of Canada's waters, including the Arctic;
  • providing government situational awareness of activities and events in these regions; and
  • cooperating with other elements of the Canadian Forces and other federal government departments to assert and enforce Canadian sovereignty, when and where necessary.

Proposed Ship Capabilities

The following high-level draft requirements are presented as an indication of the capabilities required of the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship. These requirements will be studied and refined during Project Definition. The Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) will have the following capabilities:

  • The ships will have sufficient flexibility to operate independently and effectively in Canada's Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), including such diverse environments as the Canadian Arctic, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and off the Northwest coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands. The ships would also be capable of navigating the St-Lawrence River on a year-round basis and berthing in Quebec City;
  • They will be able to operate year-round in medium first-year ice which may include old ice inclusions as well as the open ocean areas in the Atlantic and Pacific Canadian EEZ;
  • They will have an ice capability exclusively for their own mobility and not to provide icebreaking services to others;
  • They will be able to sustain operations for up to four months;
  • They will have a range of at least six thousand eight hundred nautical miles;
  • They will have sufficient organic situational awareness to ensure safety of navigation and flight;
  • They will have a sufficient command, control and communication (C3) capability to provide and receive real-time information to/from the Canadian Forces' Common Operating Picture (COP);
  • They will have a cruise speed of at least 14 knots and a maximum speed of at least 17 knots at 85% MCR (maximum continuous rating);
  • They will have a gun armament; and
  • They will remain operational for 25 years beyond Initial Operational Capability (IOC).

Additionally, the AOPS may be required to be capable of embarking and operating, in up to sea state three, an on-board organic helicopter, up to and including a CH 148 CYCLONE, with one flying and one maintenance crew.

Procurement Strategy

The procurement strategy for AOPS is subject to the Canadian Shipbuilding Policy Framework, which dictates that the federal government will procure, repair and refit vessels in Canada subject to operational requirements and the continued existence of a competitive domestic marketplace. The National Security Exception was invoked for both the acquisition and In-Service Support portions of the project. The strategy is based on a two-phase approach:

  1. Project Definition involves the creation of an Integrated Project Team (IPT) made up of personnel from DND, PWGSC, and Industry Canada, and supported by a Definition, Engineering, Logistics and Management Support (DELMS) contractor. The DELMS contractor, engaged through a competitive process, will develop an illustrative design of the AOPS and use this to assist the project staff in refining the ship specification and Statement of Work (SOW) to be used for the Project Implementation Request for Proposal (RFP). Industry will be engaged and kept informed of progress and design work. Interest from industry wishing to participate in the implementation phase will be sought through a Letter of Interest and Qualification to allow teams to self-identify, and teams that pre-qualify will be invited to comment on the draft Project Implementation Request for Proposal. The first phase will end with the issuing of the Project Implementation Request for Proposal and the recommendation of a contractor for Project Implementation. The DELMS contractor will be ineligible to bid or be part of a team bidding on the Project Implementation contract.
  2. Project Implementation will commence with the award of the acquisition contract and the long-term in-service support contract.

The Industrial and Regional Benefits (IRB) Policy will be a mandatory element of the AOPS Project. The IRB Policy is administered by Industry Canada and all IRB requirements are determined by Industry Canada with assistance from the Regional Development Agencies. The selected Project Implementation contractor will be required to provide IRBs equivalent to 100% of the values of the acquisition contract and the long-term in-service support contract.




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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:32:49 ZULU