Skip to comments.Canadian Navy tries to improve image of sub fleet with Artic trip
Posted on 08/27/2007 8:55:18 AM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
Successful trip to Arctic seen as key step in boosting image of Cda's subs
Published: Sunday, August 26, 2007 | 6:26 PM ET Canadian Press: TARA BRAUTIGAM
HMCS CORNER BROOK (CP) - The crew aboard HMCS Corner Brook, hoping to leave behind a fatal disaster aboard its sister submarine three years ago, have returned home in a bid to instill public confidence in Canada's much-maligned submarine program.
The 59 men and women on board Canada's only operational submarine want to move on from the shadow of the HMCS Chicoutimi fire that has haunted them since it claimed one of their own in October 2004.
The Canadian Press accepted a rare invitation last week from the navy to step aboard HMCS Corner Brook for a first-hand look at training drills and mock scenarios as it travelled from St. John's, N.L. to Halifax.
As captain of the first Victoria-class submarine to traverse the ice-laden waters of the Arctic, Lt.-Cmdr. Christopher Robinson faces the challenge of improving the image of the country's fleet.
Some of the public criticism of the Victoria-class submarines, stoked by tales of floods, leaky valves and missing acoustic tiles after Canada spent $891 million to acquire four of them from the British in 1998, was unfair, Robinson said.
"Submarines are one of these things that fascinate the public, so we get a lot of scrutiny," said the 14-year submariner, who became captain two months ago.
"Like any program of this magnitude, things go wrong. I personally didn't think most of it was (warranted). I thought it was obsessed on more than was required."
The trip to the North as part of Operation Nanook was intended to assert Canadian sovereignty. But it's also seen by some as a critical step toward changing the submarine program's image.
"There's this so-called positive public relations or public affairs aspect of this in terms of sending out a 'good news message"' said Bob Vokac, a senior research fellow with the Toronto-based Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies.
"Certainly the navy is working hard to overcome Chicoutimi, because when the average Canadian citizen perhaps thinks of submarines, the first thing that comes to mind is Chicoutimi. And that of course is not a picture that our navy or the Canadian Forces really wants to have first and foremost in the minds of the Canadian public."
Eric Lerhe, a fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and retired commodore, said the Arctic trip is testament to the navy's change in attitude since the Chicoutimi fire off the coast of Ireland, which killed Lt. Chris Saunders of Halifax.
"Here is the navy, who had this problem, has over the last couple of years done an immense amount of training and effort to put it behind them and now this is what it's doing," Lerhe said from Calgary.
"In the most challenging operational area in the world - the North - it executed a successful patrol without safety concerns."
Senior Defence officials highlighted the need to boost the reputation of Canada's subs in a briefing note last year to the prime minister, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
"The recommended key message to the Canadian public should be the Victoria-class submarine continues to provide good value to Canada in support of our defence requirements," wrote Commodore R.W. Greenwood in the April 20, 2006 note.
That came one week before Ottawa announced it wouldn't repair HMCS Chicoutimi until 2010. It's been sitting in dry dock in Halifax since the fire.
Operation Nanook may also have been key to boosting the morale of Canada's sailors.
The other two Victoria-class subs - HMCS Windsor and HMCS Victoria - are both currently out of commission, and all submariners were subjected to "an operational pause" following the Chicoutimi fire, said Robinson.
"No one was going to sea, nothing was happening, which is hard," he said.
Many aboard HMCS Corner Brook agreed participating in the exercise lifted their spirits.
"If you can go to sea on your boat and get it out of its maintenance periods, you're doing the business, that's what we get paid to do," said Executive Officer Alex Kooiman.
"There's an old navy term: sailors belong on ships and ships belong out at sea."
The operation also helped ease the bottleneck of the next generation of submariners who have been waiting to earn their credentials.
"The submarine world is sort of in a strange position right now being that there's only one boat running, so the submarine community can only accept so many trainees," said navy Lt. Matt Taccogna, a trainee himself who hopes to return to the Arctic next summer.
Robinson said the surplus of eager submariners is proof Canada's submarine program has already improved its standing.
© The Canadian Press, 2007
Aren’t there three submarines in West Edmonton Mall?
The Russians have hollowed out mountains to hide their subs, Canada has the Mall.
Must... not... make... no nook... pun...
LOL!! Too... Easy...
I guess if Canada sent our Navy to help the US, it would also be handy if there were actually any bodies of water in or near Afghanistan. Just saying like.....
“In the Navy, you can help your fellow man” at least that’s the way the Village People saw it.
Do the women spoil the all male “brotherhood” or do they find new opportunities for adventure “under the pole?”
A certain friend of mine has a problem with this.
I thought this was an example of a Canadian "submarine."
And how would you feel about it?
Arabian Sea 2002-01-14
Top to bottom:
HMCS Charlottetown (FFH 339) Halifax class frigate
HMCS Iroquois (DDH 280) Iroquois class destroyer
USSS Bataan (LHD) Wasp Class amphibious assault ship
USS Decatur (DDG 73 Arleigh Burke class destroyer
HMCS Halifax (FFH 330) Halifax class frigate
Bataan is LHD 5
U.S. Navy to Royal Canadian Navy :
I would not approve on several levels.
That is precisely the problem with the Royal Canadian Navy ...... It's Lilliputian definition of "near".
"Real" navies, like the U.S. Navy, have the capability of projecting naval power into Afghanistan.
U.S. naval aircraft have continued and intensified the sustained campaign against Taliban targets inside Afghanistan as the air war against the al-Qaeda terror network and its Taliban allies entered its second month. ... Navy F-14 and F/A-18 strike fighters and Marine Corps F/A-1 8s, protected by EA-613 electronic attack aircraft, flew sorties daily from aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea and employed an array of precision strike weapons against fixed targets in nearly every major Afghan city.
The Royal Canadian Navy has the capability of projecting limited naval power into the north half of the Straight of Juan de Fuca in case the Black Ball Ferry ever tries to attack Victoria. That's about it.
In the age of stand-off weaponry launched by long-range naval air power, the Royal Canadian Navy's definition of "near" means that a "real" navy can target and sink Royal Canadian Navy ships before the Canadian ship can even fire back with any hope of getting it's warheads within hundreds of miles of the attacker.
If Canada is going to show up at gunfights armed with spit-balls, it is better to not show up to the fight at all. It just gets Canadians killed for no reason.
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