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Construction Starts on Canadian Surface Combatants

By James Careless

Halifax, Nova Scotia – It’s official: As of June 28, 2024, construction has started on the Royal Canadian Navy’s new fleet of 15 Canadian Surface Combatants (CSC) at Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax. The project is budgeted at $56-60 billion (before taxes) to build the 15 CSCs and bring them into service. The CSC will deliver the capabilities provided by the RCN’s four retired Iroquois-class destroyers and 12 Halifax-class frigates, which will be retired once the 15 CSC vessels are in service.

To be specific, work has begun on building the CSC’s Production Test Module (PTM). The PTM is meant to serve as a learning experience for Irving’s managers, engineers, and employees. This will allow the shipyard and the Government of Canada to test and streamline processes, and then apply what they’ve learned to full rate production of the CSCs, which are now officially designated as River-class destroyers.

Work on the first CSC, HMCS Fraser, will start in 2025 with a completion date sometime in the early 2030s. The next two ships to be built will be named HMCS Saint-Laurent and HMCS Mackenzie. The final of these River-Class destroyers is expected to be completed in 2050.

The CSC is based on BAE Systems’ Type 26 warship design, which is also being built by Australia and the United Kingdom and Australia. All of these Type 26 warships will have enhanced underwater sensors, state-of-the-art radar, and modern weapons. According to a Government of Canada news release issued on June 28, 2024, the official NATO Ship Designator for the River-class warship will be DDGH. This translates to destroyer (DD), guided (G) missile, helicopter (H) capable.

The start of work on the CSC’s PTM was heralded by a major public ceremony at Irving Shipbuilding on June 28, 2024. It was attended by Minister of National Defence Bill Blair, RCN Commander Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee, and Irving Shipbuilding President Dick Lesko.

“Today, we launch construction on the largest Canadian shipbuilding project since the Second World War, marking an historic milestone for the Royal Canadian Navy,” said Blair. “The River-class destroyers will provide the Canadian Armed Forces with the tools that they need to defend our national interests in the decades to come — and ensure that Canada can deploy a state-of-the-art, combat-ready fleet of warships to defend our country and support our allies in thirty years. As we invest in this new fleet, we are also supporting Canada’s shipbuilding industry and thousands of well-paying, skilled jobs.”

Worth noting: To support the River-Class destroyers as they enter service and then support them throughout their life cycles, DND will build a land-based testing facility on its own land at Hartlen Point in Halifax. Construction on this facility is expected to start this summer with completion sometime in 2027.

In a pre-event media briefing the day before the June 28th ceremony, senior government officials provided some details about the CSC project.

One point stood out very clearly: Canada needs to get the River-class destroyers built on schedule because “The Halifax-class frigates have reached the end of their design lives,” said one senior government official. Although the weapons and combat systems “remain capable” due to upgrades, “the hull and mechanical systems have never been systematically renewed through formal life extensions.”

This is why the RCN wants to have nine River-class destroyers in service by 2040. “We will ensure the Halifax-class remains as ready and relevant as possible to 2040, but we should also be clear that we already have a capability gap in air defence,” a senior government official said. “We cannot defend other ships from missiles and threats from the air.”

This is why the goal of having nine River-class destroyers in RCN service by 2040 is so important. “If you look at the timelines that are laid out for the project right now, we’re expecting the first ship to be launched early in the 2030s [and] delivered to the Navy around that same time,” said a senior government official. Given that these new ships will have to undergo tests, trials, and crew training periods, this person did not expect these first-received River-class destroyers to enter operational deployment until 2035.

Here’s the kicker: Since the RCN currently deploys four frigates a year, the Navy needs to get four River-class destroyers to operational status before the Halifax-class frigates can be retired. Even then, the RCN may need to keep some Halifaxs in service so that its sailors can log enough sea days. So as far as this senior government official is concerned, the River-class destroyers can’t be built soon enough.





1 thought on “Construction Starts on Canadian Surface Combatants”

  1. “The final of these River-Class destroyers is expected to be completed in 2050.”

    One thing I know from government service is that no major project ever comes in on time and on budget. So, what is the plan B for when the current city class ships become nothing more than floating museums and the fecal matter hits the air moving device and the replacements haven’t been launched?

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