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SHIPBUILDING – VARD Marine

SHIPBUILDING – VARD Marine

BY JAMES CARELESS

VARD is proposing the Vigilance Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) as a replacement for the Kingston-class

Taking Offshore Patrol Vessels
to the Next Level

Since entering service in the 1990s, the Royal Canadian Navy’s 12 Kingston-class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDV)s have served this nation well. But the time for replacing the Kingston-class is fast approaching, which is why VARD Marine (VARD) is proposing a 21st century replacement known as the Vigilance Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV). Its design was unveiled by Team Vigilance at CANSEC 2023 in Ottawa May 31, 2023. Along with VARD, a Fincantieri company, Team Vigilance partner companies include Heddle Shipyards, Thales Canada, Fincantieri, and SH Defence. 

“We’ve taken a very close look at what the Navy is doing with the Kingston-class,” said Derek Buxton, VARD’s Vice President of Business Development. “Armed with this knowledge, we tapped into VARD’s extensive experience as a naval architect designing OPVs for customers all over the world, and developed the Vigilance OPV incorporating all the latest innovations to make it modern, sustainable, and economical to run.” 

WHAT’S ON OFFER 

According to VARD, the Vigilance OPV is intended to satisfy the RCN’s projected future demands under the second pillar of the Government of Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS). As a direct replacement for the Kingston-class MCDVs, these new ships would be designed, built, and equipped in Canada. 

“Tailored to the needs of the Royal Canadian Navy’s future fleet, Vigilance strikes the balance between flexibility, adaptability, and size, while maintaining the life-cycle cost advantages VARD’s naval designs are known for” said the May 30, 2023 news release that heralded the Vigilance’s introduction at CANSEC. “The vessel has been conceived for high-tempo sovereignty missions and engineered for global deployment and forward basing abroad.” 

 In terms of capability, the Vigilance OPV would be able to perform core naval missions such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, subsea infrastructure protection, mine countermeasures, resource conservation, and maritime interdiction operations. It will be equipped with SH Defence’s ‘The Cube’ modular mission system and payload handling system to host and deploy a range of equipment. 

According to Buxton, the Vigilance OPV is intended to do everything the Kingston-class ships can do, and then some. “While it can perform all of the domestic missions that the MCDV is designed to perform, the Vigilance is also capable of transoceanic deployment in a very safe and comfortable way,” he told CDR. “It is a more ‘sea kindly’ vessel with an extended range, the ability to be staffed with a minimum crew and to be forward based in an operating theatre overseas for an extended period of time.” 

 The notion of minimal crewing is Team Vigilance’s way of addressing the recruitment/retention issues being faced by the Canadian Armed Forces. “We have designed the Vigilance to take advantage of autonomous systems wherever possible,” said Buxton. “Add the fact that The Cube’s suite of mission modules come with their own operational specialists, and a Vigilance OPV can be run using a very lean core complement. This helps to address the Navy’s current challenges with recruitment and retention.”

According to Buxton, Vigilance would be designed, built and equipped in Canada

A MADE-IN-CANADA SOLUTION 

 The Vigilance OPV is a ‘Team Canada’ solution for replacing the Kingston-class MCDVs. Not only would these ships be made in Canada, but their construction would reap solid benefits for the project’s Canadian suppliers. 

“What we’re saying is that Vigilance would be designed, built and equipped in Canada,” Buxton said. “So, it would be our objective to look for a broad coalition of supporting companies who are Canadian that can offer equipment systems and solutions that meet the needs of the Royal Canadian Navy. We want to give it the ship a true Canadian complexion. We’re not just looking to offset the investment with indirect ITBs, but to directly leverage Canadian industry to the fullest extent possible.” 

“Our hope is to look at what’s available in the Canadian marine sector from the systems equipment and solutions perspective, and integrate that into the Vigilance,” he continued. “Designers tend to default to what they know and what they know quite often is what they’re closest to. This means that Canadian designers and engineering firms will be more familiar with Canadian equipment systems and solutions and more apt to design those into the ship. And so it has a compounding effect that pulls the whole of the Canadian marine sector along into the shipbuilding process.” 

This commitment to Canadian industry goes back to VARD’s design of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Leonard J. Cowley, which entered service in 1984 and is still in use today. “This was the first such vessel we ever designed, which started out as a patrol vessel for the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Ocean,” said Buxton. “We’ve taken that small modest investment by the Canadian taxpayer in trusting us to design that offshore patrol vessel and turned it into a track record of delivering designs for the UK Royal Navy, for the New Zealanders, for the South Africans, for the Irish, and for the US Coast Guard.” 

 “The biggest feather in our cap linked back to the CCGS Leonard J. Cowley is being awarded a contract with Eastern Shipbuilding Group (US) to design the US Coast Guard’s next offshore patrol cutter,” he added. Based on the VARD 7 110 design, 25 new Heritage Class cutters are being built under the US Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program. It ranks as the highest dollar value procurement in USCG history. 

 “The Heritage Class doesn’t have a lot of firepower because that’s not the role or mandate of the US Coast Guard,” said Buxton. “But it does have a very sophisticated intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance/communication suite, and an Aegis combat management system. So, although this ship is classed as an OPV, it’s a very sophisticated, highly integrated offshore patrol vessel. 

READY TO MOVE FORWARD 

VARD and its Team Vigilance partners are ready to move forward with the detailed design and construction of the Kingston-class replacements that Canada needs, with domestically made Vigilance OPVs that are significantly better than the ships they will replace. All they need is the go-ahead from Ottawa!

James Careless is CDR’s Ottawa Bureau Chief

 

 

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