5 novembre 2020 | Local, Naval

The Future Canadian Surface Combatant

The Future Canadian Surface Combatant

By Captain Christopher Nucci, Royal Canadian Navy

November 2020

 

Proceedings

 

Vol. 146/11/1,413

Canada is pursuing a single class of 15 surface combatants for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), unlike some of its allies who are building multiple classes of more specialized ships. A single variant Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) is better than the project’s original vision of two variants based on a common hull (the first a task group command/air-defense version, the other a more general-purpose/antisubmarine warfare version). While all naval force structure is essentially driven by national strategic defense and security interests, a single-class solution is based on three principal factors. First, it fits best for Canada’s unique naval requirements shaped by its geography, modest fleet size, and the RCN’s operational needs. Second, it optimizes effectiveness now and into the future, while responsibly seeking maximum cost efficiencies. Finally, it is an innovative approach that has only recently become both practical and advantageous because of recent technological developments, such as convergence and digitization.

The General Purpose Warship Moment

Naval force planning decisions must coexist in harmony with decisions regarding a navy’s overall fleet mix of capital ships, “high-end” surface combatants, “low-end” combatants, and submarines—and the roles of each type.1 In particular, surface combatants have historically fulfilled one or two warfare roles, such as antiair and antisubmarine warfare. Until recently, fielding an affordable “general purpose warship” was too difficult to achieve. The technological limitations of the latter half of the 20th century and into the first decade of the 21st imposed inescapable constraints stemming from the necessary physical size and power requirements of electronics and equipment, along with the expensive and challenging integration of the various single-purpose weapons, sensors, communications, and command-and-control arrangements (as well as the operations and maintenance personnel) required for each role. These limitations could only be surmounted by increasing space, weight, crew size, and the commensurate complexity. As a result, many navies introduced multiple classes of surface combatants to handle the different warfare roles, as well as low-end ships (at less cost) to have sufficient numbers of ships available to respond to contingencies.

For the RCN, with a small force of submarines and no capital ships, the approach until now followed this pattern, with the Iroquois-class destroyers focused until their divestment on task group command and area air defense and the more numerous Halifax-class frigates acting as more general-purpose/antisubmarine warfare platforms. Canada’s allies have had to confront similar considerations. For example, in the United Kingdom, the number of hulls and capabilities of the Type 26 (the CSC’s parent design, known as the Global Combat Ship) are directly connected to the planned acquisition of less-capable Type 31 frigates, the existence of Type 45 antiair-warfare destroyers, a larger submarine fleet, and the importance of capital ships, such as Royal Navy aircraft carriers. For Australia (which is also acquiring the Type 26/GCS-derived Hunter-class), the requirement to protect amphibious ships, more submarines in the fleet, and a separate class of air-warfare destroyers are key factors. Different requirements ultimately lead to different priorities and trade-off decisions, and Canada’s circumstances are unlike any others.

Canada’s Geography, Fleet Size, and Operational Requirements

Aside from the overall fleet mix, the other considerations for any state’s naval force structure are the geographic factors, overall fleet size, and operational requirements. In Canada’s case, unique geography includes the bicoastal nature of the RCN’s homeports in Victoria, British Columbia, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the tricoastal areas of responsibility in the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic. Each area is very distant from the others, and therefore any timely maritime response generally must come from the closest base. In other words, when you need a ship from the opposite coast for any unexpected reason, it is a long way to go. So, it is best if all ships are equally capable and allocated more or less evenly among homeports. Similarly, the RCN must consider the long-range nature of its ship deployments—even domestic ones—because of the significant distances to anticipated theaters of operation.

A single combatant class that can perform a wide range of tasks while remaining deployed best meets this challenge and provides more options to government when far away from homeport. For example, a CSC operating in the Asia-Pacific region as an air-defense platform for an allied amphibious task group can quickly respond to a requirement to hunt an adversary’s submarine, if needed. Similarly, assembling a national naval task group of several multirole CSCs in response to a crisis is much more achievable when the RCN can draw from the whole surface combatant fleet to assign ships at the necessary readiness levels. The alternative may not guarantee a sufficient number of specialized variants needed for the task when the call comes. In other words, if any one ship becomes unavailable to perform a task for any reason, there is more depth available in the fleet to fill the gap and complete the mission. Consequently, having more ships of similar capabilities ensures a higher rate of operational availability, which is especially important with the RCN’s relatively modest fleet size. For small fleets, a “high/low” mix of warships or multiple classes of more specialized combatants actually constrains operational availability.

Cost-Saving Value

While increasing complexity would ordinarily imply increasing cost, a single class of ships can actually present opportunities to increase cost efficiency. First, a single class of ships eliminates duplication of fixed program costs such as design and engineering and, during ship construction, further eliminates additional costs derived from retooling and pausing work in the shipyard between the construction of different classes, while achieving better learning curves and lowering overall costs per unit compared with two shorter construction runs. As each ship enters service, a single ship class in sufficient numbers has dedicated supply chains and more efficiency and equipment availability from the provision of common parts (especially given that two allies are procuring additional ships based on the common Type 26/GCS design.) Higher cost efficiencies in maintenance from labor specialization also can be expected, as well as the ability for more efficient repair training and use of required ship repair facilities and equipment. Furthermore, training costs associated with a single class are reduced through the ability to deliver common training modules to a larger student cohort, while simultaneously allowing for deeper knowledge and specialist personnel development among a larger pool of available crew with common qualifications. 

This latter point cannot be overstated—crew availability is a key requirement for operational availability, and the efficiencies made possible with a single set of common qualifications and training enables a larger pool of available personnel to deploy and more flexibility for sustained operations at the unit level. It includes Royal Canadian Air Force maritime helicopter crews and embarked unmanned systems specialists, as well as Army, special operations forces, and even Royal Canadian Mounted Police personnel in a law enforcement mission who would require no additional conversion training between classes once familiar with the CSC’s modular mission bay arrangement or boat launching procedures.

An Opportunity Enabled by Modern Technology

Compared with a few decades ago, several recent technological developments are making multirole ships much more practical. Information-age innovation is, in essence, enabling all the potential advantages a single class of surface combatants while minimizing the traditional disadvantages. For example, any operations room or bridge display can now easily show video or data feeds from any sensor, weapon, or software support system—convergence. Likewise, instead of several stand-alone unmanned systems controllers, consoles that can control any of the ship’s unmanned air, surface, or subsurface system are becoming available. Widespread digitization has reduced space requirements, while increasing system capability, flexibility, and power and cooling efficiency. This miniaturization allows for smaller components that can fit into smaller spaces. 

Multifunctionality can now be found in all kinds of components. For example, a single digital beam-forming radar can replace multiple traditional radars, software-defined radios can support different communications requirements on the fly, programmable multipurpose weapons can engage more than one kind of target but be fired from a common vertical launcher, and decoy launchers can now deploy a variety of defensive munitions. Multifunctionality even extends beyond individual systems to encompass features like the CSC’s modular mission bay—a reconfigurable space able to accommodate and integrate any containerized payload imaginable. With an air-transportable, container-based set of payloads, embarking additional specialized equipment or capabilities into a deployed ship during an overseas port visit can be done in just a few days. These developments enable a single ship to rapidly transition to and execute many naval roles while defending itself against a myriad of threats.

Although a ship’s overall capacity (e.g., the desired number of crew accommodated, missiles embarked, unmanned systems carried, endurance and seakeeping performance, etc.) will still be constrained by its size, a single ship class can have a full range of capabilities. The CSC balances multirole capabilities with a modest amount of capacity. For example, it has one main gun and 32 vertical-launch cells, one helicopter, one mission bay, one multifunction radar, and the ability to embark approximately 204 personnel for crew and mission personnel.

Further technological development and additional advantages will accrue from operating a single ship class, such as those from software development and data analytics. For example, the analysis of detailed technical data, such as system-error codes, from across the entire class in near-real time enables the efficient updating of control software to improve cyber security. Or, consider the ability to perform virtual research and development work on a digital twin of a physical system, such as a gas turbine, to examine performance limitations without risking the equipment itself. Data analytics performed on the same system when a part fails can help determine which sensors are critical and what patterns are early indicators of impending failure. This will allow the crew to perform preventive maintenance before the system fails catastrophically and should prevent failures in the other ships of the class. In a connected world, it is even possible to rapidly and remotely inject operational capability enhancements to deployed ships. Ultimately, the relative ease with which the software elements of a combat system can be changed will allow ships of the same class a greater capability to act and react with agility, the most efficient way to maximize potential for a relatively small fleet.

Acknowledging the unique Canadian geographical and operational requirements, the imposed limitations on naval force structure, and the need to maximize the RCN’s effectiveness while seeking cost efficiencies calls for a single class of surface combatant—the current CSC project. Canada will benefit from this innovative solution for decades. The RCN is well-positioned to make the most of this new platform and the inherent flexibility and multirole capabilities it will bring. The Canadian government’s decision to move forward with the CSC program as a single surface combatant class is not only eminently feasible, but also the most sensible for the situation we face. 

https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2020/november/future-canadian-surface-combatant

Sur le même sujet

  • Canadian government to spend estimated $800M more to keep aging CF-18s in fighting shape

    15 janvier 2020 | Local, Aérospatial

    Canadian government to spend estimated $800M more to keep aging CF-18s in fighting shape

    OTTAWA — The federal government is planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars more to ensure Canada’s aging CF-18s can still fight while the country waits for replacement jets, which were originally expected years ago. The extra money comes after the federal auditor general warned in late 2018 that Canada’s fighter jets risked being outmatched by more advanced adversaries due to a lack of combat upgrades since 2008 and will result in new weapons, sensors and defensive systems for the fleet. Royal Canadian Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger estimated the added cost will be around $800 million, which is on top of the $3 billion the government has already set aside to extend the lives of the CF-18s and purchase 18 secondhand fighter jets from Australia. “Canada has a history of upgrading their fighter aircraft,” Meinzinger said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press. “It’s a consequence of the fact that over time, threats … advance as technology advances.” The air force did not initially plan any upgrades to the CF-18s’ combat systems after 2008 because it expected to retire the last of the fleet by 2020, when a new fleet of jets was to have taken over. Instead, thanks to how successive governments have managed — or mismanaged — the jet file over the past decade, a competition to select a new fighter for the air force is only now underway. Even then, the last CF-18 isn’t scheduled to be retired until 2032. The air force “imagined perhaps transitioning the fighter force a little bit earlier,” Meinzinger acknowledged, which is why the need to invest in the CF-18s’ combat systems wasn’t taken — or even apparent — earlier. “Because we anticipate flying the aircraft longer, this is why we’re doing what we’re doing to ensure we’ve got at least parity with the threats that we would see over that timeline before we can transition to the new fighter,” he added. The federal auditor general flagged concerns with the combat effectiveness of Canada’s CF-18s in a report in November 2018, warning that the planes “will become more vulnerable as advanced combat aircraft and air defence systems continue to be developed and used by other nations.” The auditor general also found that even though the Department of National Defence had decided to invest money into the CF-18s to keep them flying past 2020, it “removed upgrades to combat capability,” in part because of “cost concerns.” Documents obtained by The Canadian Press through the Access to Information Act show the auditor general’s office initially wanted to say the fleet was “not fully capable for combat.” But defence officials said that could “compromise operational security” and suggested toned down language. “We’ve got an excellent capability,” Meinzinger said when asked about the state of the fleet. “The fighter force has got an outstanding reputation globally. They stand the watch 24/7, 365 under the NORAD rubric. … I don’t want Canadians to be worried about where we’re at today.” The U.S. Marines are looking at keeping their F-18s — upon which the CF-18 is based — in the air until the 2030s, and Meinzinger said the two forces are working together to identify the best ways to do that. “We’ve made it a priority and we’re moving as fast as we can to get it delivered,” he said. “Obviously our intent is always to ensure that we’re making the investments such that we believe that we’ve got at least parity against the threats that we would face.” https://nationalpost.com/news/air-force-to-spend-hundred-of-millions-more-to-keep-cf-18s-fighting-fit

  • PAL Aerospace Awarded Heavy Maintenance Contract for Royal Canadian Air Force CT-142 Fleet

    22 juillet 2019 | Local, Aérospatial

    PAL Aerospace Awarded Heavy Maintenance Contract for Royal Canadian Air Force CT-142 Fleet

    ST. JOHN'S, July 17, 2019 /CNW/ - PAL Aerospace is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a contract to provide heavy maintenance services for the Royal Canadian Air Force's CT-142 Dash-8 Fleet.   The contract covers an initial four-year period and includes opportunities for PAL Aerospace to earn contract extensions that increase the life of the agreement to seven years. "PAL Aerospace appreciates this new opportunity to continue building our relationship as a trusted partner of the Royal Canadian Air Force," said PAL Aerospace Senior Vice-President of Business Development John Turner.  "We understand the important role these aircraft play in training Canada'snext generation of aviation professionals, and we look forward to working closely with the RCAF in ensuring the successful delivery of this contract." Flown by the 402 Squadron, the CT-142 is used to train Air Combat Systems Operators and Airborne Electronic Sensor Operators from the Royal Canadian Air Force and other Air Forces from around the world.  Designed and produced in Canada, the CT-142 is a conversion of the twin turboprop Dash-8 airliner modified to include a suite of on-board training computers and a large radar system. PAL Aerospace will perform the maintenance services associated with this contract at our facilities in St. John's, Newfoundland; and Winnipeg, Manitoba. The awarding of this contract furthers PAL Aerospace's goal of expanding and developing our ISS capabilities across Canada.  About PAL Aerospace:                   A member of the Exchange Income Corporation family of companies, PAL Aerospace is a Canadian-owned and operated international aerospace and defence company. With a focus on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and in-service support solutions, PAL Aerospace is recognized by governments and militaries for on time/on budget delivery and high reliability rates. PAL's record of accomplishment now extends to operations in Canada, the Americas, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. PAL Aerospace offers a single point of accountability for its programs and takes pride in being the trusted choice for clients worldwide. For more information, please visit www.palaerospace.com SOURCE PAL Aerospace https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/pal-aerospace-awarded-heavy-maintenance-contract-for-royal-canadian-air-force-ct-142-fleet-800969168.html

  • French firm Dassault pulls out of fighter-jet competition: Sources

    7 novembre 2018 | Local, Aérospatial

    French firm Dassault pulls out of fighter-jet competition: Sources

    By Lee Berthiaume The long effort to replace Canada's aging fighter jets took another surprise twist on Tuesday, as multiple sources revealed that French fighter-jet maker Dassault is pulling out of the multibillion-dollar competition. The decision comes just over a week after the federal government published the military's requirements for a replacement for Canada's CF-18s as well as a draft process by which a winning supplier will be chosen. Dassault had repeatedly pitched its Rafale aircraft to Canada over the years as successive governments in Ottawa have wrestled with selecting a new fighter jet. Dassault's pitch included significant promises, including that it would assemble the planes in Canada. But sources tell The Canadian Press that Dassault's decision to withdraw was related to the fact France is not a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, which counts the U.S., Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada as members. The five members have very specific requirements for how their equipment works together. The French government, which had been closely working with Dassault as the most recent iteration of Canada's fighter-replacement program has inched along over the past year, was preparing to notify Ottawa of the company's withdrawal. The move leaves four companies — U.S. aerospace giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing, European competitor Airbus and Swedish firm Saab — competing for the $19-billion contract to replace Canada's 76 CF-18s with 88 new fighters. A contract isn't expected to be awarded until 2021 or 2022, with delivery of the first new aircraft slated for 2025. In the meantime, the government is planning to upgrade its CF-18s and buy 25 used fighters from Australia as a stopgap. Dassault faced several significant challenges in meeting Canada's requirements for a new fighter, said defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, and while they weren't insurmountable, they would have cost time and money. Those challenges included meeting those Five-Eyes intelligence-sharing requirements, which Perry said put Dassault at a distinct disadvantage in the competition when compared to Lockheed Martin, Boeing and, to a certain degree, Airbus. "For any of the non-American companies, solving the Five-Eyes interoperability issues is going to be challenging," he said, noting that the U.S. in particular is very sensitive about data-sharing. "And it costs companies a lot of money to mount and pursue bids. So if they think at this point in time that it's not a realistic prospect, then pulling out is pretty understandable." That could explain why Dassault never established a strong presence in Canada during the many years when it was trying to sell the Rafale as a replacement for the CF-18, he added. The CF-18s are about 35 years old. Canada's attempts to buy a new fighter jet have dragged on for nearly a decade after the previous Conservative government announced in 2010 that Canada would buy 65 F-35s without a competition, with the first to be delivered in 2015. But the Tories pushed the reset button in 2012 after the auditor general raised questions about the program and National Defence revealed the jets would cost $46 billion over their lifetimes. After campaigning on a promise not to buy the F-35s, the Trudeau Liberals announced in November 2016 they would take their time with a competition to replace the CF-18s, and buy 18 "interim" Boeing Super Hornets without a competition because Canada needed more fighter jets badly. But then Boeing’s trade dispute with Canadian rival Bombardier saw the Liberals scrap their plan to buy Super Hornets and instead begin talks to buy 18 used fighter jets from Australia. A contract for those used planes is expected in the coming weeks. The formal competition to replace the CF-18s is scheduled to begin next spring. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2018/11/07/news/french-firm-dassault-pulls-out-fighter-jet-competition-sources

Toutes les nouvelles