told Canadian parliamentarians in November. “Owing
to the capacity issues, Canada is unable to support and
maintain those ships at sea if it needs to deploy them
Department of National Defence spokesman Daniel
Le Bouthillier told Seapower that Canada has had dis-
cussions with the U.S. Navy on ways it can help pro-
vide for resupplying Canadian ships at sea. That would
be done through better coordination between the
movements of U.S. ships and RCN vessels while on
exercises or missions, he said.
That, however, won’t totally take care of the problem, Norman told Seapower.
“The key thing to understand is that capability is one
of the most in-demand and short-in-supply capabilities
across all of our allies, so there is not an affluence of
underway replenishment capability among our key
allies,” Norman later explained to Parliament. “They’re
prepared to help to a point, but there is no silver bullet.”
In January, the RCN asked industry representatives for
proposals that could see a number of leased commercial
tankers made available to resupply Canadian warships at
sea. The main focus for RCN planners is to ensure that the service’s
ships can be refueled at sea.
Under a lease arrangement,
replenishment-at-sea systems such
as fuel lines would be installed,
along with RCN communications
systems to be operated by Navy personnel on board. Contractors would
operate the ships for at least the first
year, but they would eventually be
replaced by RCN personnel.
The arrangement would be for
at least two years as the Joint
Support Ships are being built. No
decision, however, has yet been
made on whether to proceed with
the leasing arrangement.
But retired Vice Adm. Peter
Cairns, the former head of the
Canadian Navy, said that leasing
arrangement has to come as soon as
possible. The loss of Protecteur and
Preserver, also known as Auxiliary
Oil Replenishment or AOR ships, has
had a devastating effect on Canada’s
naval capabilities, he added.
“The navy’s frigates are designed
with speed and combat in mind and
as such, can only operate for a very
limited time without requiring refueling and resupplying,” said Cairns,
now the president of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada.
“In the view of many the loss of
the AOR ships has effectively
reduced the Navy to a well-armed
coast guard; unable to form a task
group without the assistance of
foreign nations.” ;
David Pugliese reports from Victoria,