Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A sinking feeling

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A new report by a pair of think-tanks says Canada should scrap its four problem-plagued submarines and questioned whether the military even needs an undersea capability.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Rideau Institute say taxpayers have wasted enough money on the submarines, only one of which is fully operational. The other three still suffer from a variety of problems, even though they were acquired almost 15 years ago. Two are expected to be operational this year, while the fourth will be in dry dock until 2015.

The military has still not fully explained how it ended up with the lemons, which it acquired from Great Britain for the bargain-basement price of $750 million. The price was too good to be true.

The answer, however, is not to sell them for scrap, but to finish the job of making them seaworthy.

The think-tanks say drones can perform the coastal surveillance duties of submarines, but they are exaggerating the capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles, while diminishing the importance of underwater warfare.

A drone has limited flight time and it cannot see under the water, a job submarines do better than any other platform. As well, submarines are invaluable in projecting force around the world, supporting surface ships and combatting piracy.

Once the subs are fully operational, their lifespan will probably end around 2030, giving Canada plenty of time to decide how, or if, to replace them.

The Canadian navy is supposed to be in the middle of a $35 billion procurement program, but the promised new ships have yet to get off the drawing board.

Altogether, it doesn't sound like a navy that's ready, aye ready.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 12, 2013 A8

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