Mark Collins – What Is the RCN For? Reprise

Further to this post close to three years ago, and to this post wherein there are lots of links related to the Navy’s, er, challenges,

“A letter to the New [Canadian] Minister of National Defence on the Defence Policy Review”

the essence of the matter is outlined:

Small fish in a big pond: Future of navy lies in balance of defence review

Officials [no–ministers] must decide whether the Royal Canadian Navy will retain its ability to have even ‘relative prominence’ overseas…

For the Royal Canadian Navy, which is arguably facing the biggest capability gap in the Canadian Armed Forces, current and former officials agree this could result in a major culture shift.

The question boils down to this: will the navy maintain a significant international presence in the future, or will it turn most of its focus inwards, to maintaining sovereignty in Canadian waters? 

…to give Canada a place of “relative prominence” within a naval coalition, the navy needs to be able to form “task groups” of three or four ships, with anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine capabilities. These groups give Canada international clout, said a defence official speaking on background. 

But readiness has dropped, the official said. Destroyers and supply vessels have been retired. While Canada’s fleet of Halifax-class frigates are expected to last until the 2030s, possibly into the 2040s, with refit programs, after which new Canadian Surface Combatants are expected to take over, long expensive defence procurements like these have a habit of slipping. The fear is that replacements might not arrive, or not enough would be built.

From a political perspective, the government might be satisfied to let go of the naval task group capability, meaning that it would retain a more modest ability to participate overseas. 

“If we showed up with only one modern ship, that might satisfy the politicos, as they can argue that we’re doing our bit,” the official added. Domestic capabilities, in that case, could be prioritized. “The self-image of the force would shift from a combat-capable organization with global reach to a regionally-focused force that can provide a very modest presence in a single crisis area.”..

Indeed. I don’t think, what with crazy build-in-Canada costs, the government can any longer afford a serious task group capability based on CSCs (whenever they show up and in what numbers?).

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


6 thoughts on “Mark Collins – What Is the RCN For? Reprise”

  1. The “Culprit” is not having spent 2% of GDP on Defence as per the NATO requirement, exacerbated by not doing so for decades. Does it matter if we have any “overseas” CAF? Not just Navy? Probably not. We could be like Iceland. Or not.
    I am from Ontario as well and did not, until about 20 years ago after living in BC, comprehend the incredible “maritime blindness” that afflicts the rest of the nation who do not live near the coast (and even many who do). This affliction causes folks to ignore the importance of our maritime trade (the vast majority — less USA — comes in by sea) and our responsibility to, in company with others, keep maritime lanes open. I wish folks in the “centre” could bother with the education and research needed for this topic (a “discipline” really) if they are either going to comment on it or make political decisions about it. The fact that we have such a small Navy with what is the longest coastline in the world seems not to greatly bother anyone — apparently I guess because “someone else” will look after our interests for us — as usual. So we can spend money on “other things.”

  2. Some thinking about RCN ships similar to mine (e.g. OPVs):

    Some of mine:


    JSS vs CCG icebreakers:

    Mark Collins

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