HALIFAX, N.S. - The Canadian government announced in January 2015 that Irving Shipbuilding will serve as prime contractor on Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) program, which will replace the Navy's Iroquois class destroyers and Halifax class frigates. Irving was already set to build the ships under Canada's national shipbuilding procurement strategy, but the company's selection as prime contractor puts it in charge of managing all contracts associated with the project. A construction contract has not been signed.
Halifax class frigate HMCS Regina
Source: Canadian Forces
At one point, the program called for delivery of a new ship as early as 2014/2015. Currently, the first ship is not expected to enter service until the 2020s. Government briefings have suggested it could take 10 years to design the ships, and another 20 years to build them. The current plan is to field a single hull to replace the Navy's destroyers and frigates. The new class is expected to weigh around 5,500 tons.
Canada's Defense Acquisition Guide calls for the acquisition of two CSC variants: an area air defense and task group command & control variant, and a general purpose variant. The air defense variant would replace the long-range missile defense and command & control capabilities provided by the Iroquois destroyers, while the general purpose variant would serve as the successor to the Halifax class. The air defense variant will be procured first, as Canada will have lost its destroyer presence by that time.
Two Iroquois class destroyers were removed from service in 2014, leaving the Navy with only one operational destroyer. HMCS Algonquin sustained significant damage in a collision with HMCS Protecteur 2013, and HMCS Iroquois was originally slated for retirement in 2015 anyway. Due to budget shortfalls, the Navy simply decided to retire both ships early. HMCS Athabaskan is the only remaining destroyer. As the Iroquois class is Canada's only ship with long-range air defense capabilities, the Navy will have to rely on U.S. and NATO allies more heavily until the CSC is ready. The Navy is also modifying four Halifax class frigates to accommodate a task group commander and staff for command & control functions as an interim capability, which will require new displays and radios on those four vessels.
The Navy has a requirement for 15 ships, representing a one-for-one replacement of 12 frigates and three destroyers. The acquisition effort has a budget of CAD26.2 billion, though a November 2013 report from Canada's auditor general suggested that the initial budget figures are more placeholders than estimates of actual program costs. The report also chastised the government for not revising the program budget in recent years despite changes in labor and material costs, and questioned how many ships the Navy will actually be able to afford with static budgets. Total acquisition costs may therefore be higher than current estimates suggest unless the Navy reduces the number of ships it plans to buy. There is also a chance that some ships could be cut in order to stay under budget.