Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/11/2011 (3636 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There's no evidence Canada was the victim of a massive criminal fraud in 1998 when it purchased four submarines from the British that turned out to be lemons, but there is powerful evidence the Canadian military failed to exercise due diligence. Maybe it was because the deal was too good to turn down -- just $800 million for four barely used submarines -- or maybe it was because the vendor was our oldest friend and ally. Whatever the reason, Canadians got taken to the cleaners and they are still waiting for an explanation.
Canada took possession of the four diesel-electric subs between 2000 and 2004, but they have spent most of their time tied up at dock because of mechanical and structural problems. The navy's torpedoes don't even fit into the British tubes. About $1 billion has been spent so far to make the boats seaworthy, but it could take another $1 billion or more before all four are ready for operations. Two might be ready, but probably not with working torpedo tubes, next year.
Some critics believe Canada should cut its losses and mothball all or some of the defective boats, rather than throwing good money after bad. The navy, however, believes it can still salvage something from the disaster. If true, the subs could have another 10 years of active service before they would need to be replaced. The best option is to proceed with the repair program, since the alternative would be a navy without any submarines.
Eventually Canada will have to decide whether it wants to purchase nuclear subs at $3 billion a copy, or stay with the diesel-electric variety, which have limited capability in the Arctic because of their need to surface to recharge batteries, although new technology has extended their ability to remain submerged for longer periods of time.
A decision on new submarines, however, does not have to be made today. Indeed, after issuing shipbuilding contracts worth $33 billion and the planned multi-billion-dollar purchase of new jet fighters, there is no appetite for a discussion about new investments in submarines.
Canada should, however, remain committed to the platform, since submarines provide a variety of valuable services, including patrolling the coasts, intercepting smugglers, guarding our economic rights, contributing to scientific research and assisting our allies. With three coasts to defend and worldwide interests to monitor, the submarine is still relevant to Canada's overall defence requirements.