Friday, 4 January 2013

Another Military Purchase Scandal--This Time a Wet One?

Now that the F35 fighters that the RCAF was supposed to get are likely to become a more appropriate and cheaper type of plane, one might imagine that the Canadian government is holding its breath, ready to release a big sigh of relief. It may want to hold onto that breath quite a while longer, if this report is correct. It's on a blog called the Sixth Estate and has the title, "True Cost of Harper Government’s Warship Construction Plan: $35 Billion, or $103 Billion?" You can follow the story as it develops on the 3Ds Blog here.

The Royal Navy, like the RCN, is building new ships and discussing its future needs. Its strategy has been to let the number of ships plummet so that the ships themselves can be first-class, high-tech and, inevitably, quite expensive. This is perhaps not the best procurement strategy when one of the main activities of your fleet is to chase pirate skiffs off the Somali coast, and another is to simply show the flag as a reassurance or a warning. A discussion of this, among other things, was recently given by the Chief of Defence Staff, and he comes down on the side of building some smaller ships. To pay for them and, particularly, to man them, either more money has to be found or some larger purchase has to get axed. Two designs that have been put forward for these hypothetical small ships (whether they end up being called Second Class Frigates, Corvettes, or even Sloops) are the Black Swan and the Venator.

I have some notes on the future structure of the RN that I will put up in a later post.

Update, January 5, 2013: Well, that didn't take long. The headline on the CBC is "Navy supply ships set to become political lightning rod." The story is that government influence has removed most of the desired capabilities from the ship design (sealift, hospital, command and control) leaving only the ability to reprovision other ships at sea. Unsurprisingly, a cancellation and restart of the project has also driven up costs.

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