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Canadian Navy - History

The many distinctive customs and traditions of the navy can sometimes make it seem like a very unique world - and it is. In Canada, 100 years of naval history enrich the lives of today's sailors, reflecting a proud past, but also enabling an exciting present. Whether it's dressing ship, piping the side or commemorating those who have served before, sailors bring together the customs of yesterday and the cutting edge technology of today to honor past traditions while reaching with confidence towards the future.

Until 1910, Canada showed little interest in naval affairs. On 4 May 1910, with a major conflict brewing in Europe, the Canadian government passed the Naval Service Act which gave birth to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). This new Navy, which originally consisted of two second hand British cruisers and a handful of volunteers, reached a strength of 9000 officers and men during the First World War.

During the 1920's and most of the 1930's, the RCN was reduced drastically. When Canada declared war on Germany in September 1939, the RCN consisted of 6 destroyers, 5 minesweepers, 2 training vessels and fewer than 2000 officers and men. Therefore, the RCN immediately embarked on a rapid expansion program, commissioning 6 American destroyers on lend lease to Britain, and reactivating the Canadian shipbuilding industry. Canada's naval contribution to the Second World War was a large one for a nation of 12 million people. From 13 ships in 1939, the RCN had grown to 400 ships with a strength of 95750 officers, men and women by 1945. The RCN represented the third largest allied Navy in the Second World War.

The Canadian navy concentrated since the late 1950s almost exclusively on maintaining an effective anti-submarine destroyer and frigate force for service both off her long Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Nearly all other major ship types, including minesweepers, were disposed of or relegated to subsidiary functions.

Three Canadian destroyers served under UN command during the Korean conflict on a variety of missions from 1950-1953. Subsequently, the RCN adopted the primary role of anti-submarine warfare (ASW). In 1949, the Canadian government announced a program for the construction of 7 new ASW destroyer escorts called the ST. LAURENT Class. The 7 RESTIGOUCHE Class destroyer escorts came next, followed by 4 MACKENZIE Class escorts in 1962 and 2 ANNAPOLIS Class destroyer escorts in 1964. During the mid sixties 3 submarines, joined the Canadian Fleet. Four TRIBAL Class destroyers arrived in the early 1970's.

Between 1955 and 1964 Canada built 20 frigates, which gradually took over from her 32 war-built destroyers and frigates. Of her current inventory of 23 frigates, only the four Iroquois class are fully up to date, and a new patrol frigate, which had advanced nearly to the contract definition stage, was urgently needed to prevent a decline in the force. Beginning in 1949 Britain loaned Canada three submarines to provide training services for her frigates, and this was now the function of Canada's three Oberon-class submarines. Canada began taking delivery of 18 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft (a variant of the US P-3) to replace her Argus fleet.

In 1983, the Government of Canada authorized expenditure of funds to design and construct six new frigates. This was subsequently increased to twelve frigates. This Canadian Patrol Frigate Program was conceived as a long-range plan to replace the twenty steam powered destroyer escorts which were built between 1955 and 1964, and modernize the Canadian Navy to operate into the 21st century.

By other reports, construction of a new series of six guided missile destroyers was to begin in the next few years. These ships would have a displacement up to 4,000 tons, and be armed with anti-ship missiles, air defense missiles, medium and small caliber gun mounts, anti-submarine torpedo tubes, and helicopters. The crews will number 200-225 personnel.

By 1983 it was planned that before the mid-1980's, modernization of operational submarines and "Annapolis," "Mackenzie," and "Restigouche" class frigates was to take place.

As of the beginning of 1988 the country's naval forces possessed 26 warships 3 submarines, 4 destroyers, 19 frigates (3 of them in the reserve), and around 50 auxiliary vessels and boats. Thirty-three shore-based patrol aircraft and 32 antisubmarine helicopters organizationally within the navy were used in the interests of the fleet.

Modernization programs were adopted and were now being implemented (or have already been completed) with the goal of lengthening the life of the ships and maintaining them at a sufficiently modern level.

"Ojibwa" class submarines, which were identical to English "Oberon" submarines (built in 1965-1968 in Great Britain), already underwent modernization in 1980-1986. A new American torpedo fire control system and more up-to-date sonar apparatus were installed in them. The submarines were armed with Mk48 torpedoes, and they were capable of launching Harpoon antiship missiles. Their life was increased to the early 1990s.

A program to modernize "Iroquois" class destroyers was beginning, and it should be completed by 1992. After this, the ships would basically carry out the missions of providing air defense to task forces and convoys at sea. It was anticipated that their life will be increased to 2000-2004.

A program to modernize frigates with the purpose of increasing their life by 8-12 years was nearing completion. The following frigates were to be retired in the indicated years (the class and number are shown): "Annapolis" (2)1994-1996, "Mackenzie" (4)1990-1993, "Restigouche" (4)1991-1994. Six "St. Laurent" class ships would be dropped from the naval registry prior to 1990.

The command of the Canadian navy felt that the present status of the fleet would not allow the fleet to carry out its missions well by the early 1990s. Replacement of obsolete diesel submarines by more modern ones, and possibly ones with nuclear propulsion units, was being considered in this connection. Judging from reports in the press, Canada intended to have 10-12 nuclear-powered multipurpose submarines in its navy by 2005-2010. Plans of English "Trafalgar" class and French "Rubis" class nuclear-powered submarines are being studied as probable prototypes. The new nuclear- powered submarines would be armed with Mk48 torpedoes, Harpoon antiship missiles and mines.

A series of "Halifax" guided missile frigates (six units) were under construction at Canadian building docks. The program was to be completed in 1992. After this, another six ships of this design may be built. A decision wasmadeto replace CH-124 Sea King antisubmarine helicoptersbyEH- 101 helicopters. Canada plans to purchase around 35 such craft in the antisubmarine variant.

Military specialists noted the absence of minesweepers in the fleet as a significant shortcoming of the Canadian navy. Six former minesweepers with a total displacement of 470 tons were now being used as training and escort ships. Construction of new minesweepers was planned.

At sea Canada's fleet was virtually rebuilt over the decade of the 1990s. The steam-powered destroyer escorts built during the fifties had all been retired and replaced by the 12 Halifax class frigates, considered among the finest of their kind. The four larger Iroquois class destroyers had been thoroughly modernized and provide a task group commander at sea with a potent air defence and command-and-control capability. Twelve Kingston class maritime coastal defence vessels, manned almost exclusively by the naval reserves, proved to be both highly effective and cost-efficient in their coastal defence and mine warfare roles. With the introduction of the four Victoria class submarines together with the acquisition of a replacement for the Sea King helicopters and the planned update of the Aurora long-range patrol aircraft, the balance of Canada's maritime forces - air, surface, and subsurface - was well on its way to being restored.

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Page last modified: 29-11-2015 19:02:50 ZULU