Today Public Services and Procurement Canada, has granted a six year long support contract to General Dynamics Mission Systems Canada (GD) at a price of $182M. The contract will see GD supply in-service support to the Royal Canadian Navy’s (RCN) Halifax class frigates. The contract covers in-service support for six of Canada’s twelve Halifax class vessels. The in-service support will cover preventative and corrective maintenance, the development and installation of upgrades, the supply of spare parts, consumables, support and test equipment. The in-service support will attempt to provide a similar service to that usually given by the after-market department of the original equipment manufacturer. The original manufacturer in the case of the Halifax-class frigate was the somewhat troubled Davie shipyards. Davie Shipyards, now known as Chantier Davie after a restructuring in 2011 is based in Lauzon in Quebec and had spent the years 2000 – 2011 being swapped from owner to owner. The company’s trouble extended to corruption investigations in late 2012 and a contract rejection in 2014, being deemed ‘unreliable’ by the Ministry of Public Works & Government Services. The company’s perceived unreliability has led to GD Canada being preferred for this in-service aftermarket services style contract. General Dynamics Mission Systems Canada was founded in 1948 and has always been a close partner of the Canadian defence establishment. General Dynamics will perform the contract from its three Canadian facilities, Calgary, Ottawa and Halifax.
Today’s contract announcement is part of a large scale attempt to extend the life of the Halifax-class frigate. The objective of the extension is to avoid a maritime capabilities gap, while Canada develops the Surface Combatant class to replace it. Canada’s new Combatant class frigate was conceived through 2010’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy aka, the National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS). The strategy, developed during the 2006 – 2015 Harper administration, had the mission statement of renewing Canada’s nautical capabilities. The Surface Combatant class is part of the combat package segment of the strategy. The combat package segment, has seen Halifax based company Irving Shipbuilding Inc., appointed to build around fifteen Surface Combatant-class frigates. The Surface Combatant-class are to be based on BAE’s Type 26 Frigate as a result of a tortious bidding process back in December 2017. The confirmation of the use of its Type 26 base model, came on the 8th of February 2019 at a total cost of $60 billion. The delivery phase of the system is expected to come in 2025 – 2040. Today’s in-support contract currently sits within the NSS also as part of the combat package segment. The authors of the NSS foresee the Halifax not just to be a stop gap but to continue operating alongside the Surface Combatant-class. The NSS therefore does not see the Halifax class retired until 2040, with the final delivery of the Surface Combatant-class.
The Halifax class frigates requirement to operate alongside the state-of-the-art Surface Combatant-class, might find this a little more than problematic. The Halifax classes were constructed between 1987 and 1996 leading to the vessels performing on 20th century technology, whilst being a quarter of the way through the 21st. The Halifax class is therefore increasingly incompatible with next-generation vessels. The increased in-service support announced today is part of the Halifax-class’s second life-extension programme in the space of 20 years. The first life-extension programme was carried out in 2007 under the Halifax Class Modernization Project (HCMP) and was led by Lockheed Martin Canada. The second saw its modernization taken over by the combat package component of 2010’s NSS. The second upgrade programme was ramped up last summer with the award of $500M in contracts to Irving Shipbuilding, Seaspan Victoria Shipyards and Chantier Davie contracting to carry out Halifax class maintenance. The current Halifax life-extension programme follows a maritime defence focus. The maritime defence focus is part of Canada’s current policy of being a chiefly ‘maritime nation’. The concept has seen the Canadian government become a major player in maritime technology, with investment programmes such as the Ocean Supercluster.