Babcock, the global engineering services company, has secured a $384m (Canadian) three year extension to its existing strategic submarine support contract from the Canadian Department of National Defense for its fleet of four Victoria Class submarines.

The original VISSC contract has been further extended to June 2021 and will see a team of more than 400 highly experienced Babcock engineers, project managers and specialist support staff continue to support all four submarines in refit and in service.

VISSC is the largest naval in service support contract in Canada say Babcock and includes project management, refits and maintenance, capability upgrades, logistics, configuration/safety records and engineering support. The main contract covers core work and tasking with deep maintenance periods – termed Extended Docking Work Periods (EDWP), included as required by the submarine operating schedules. 

Mike Whalley, President Babcock Canada said:

“Babcock is a trusted industrial partner to the Royal Canadian Navy and the further extension to the VISSC underlines the belief in our expert delivery and our team’s world class support.

We continue to invest in Canada’s strategic submarine capability through our skilled people, Canadian supply chain and our processes and this contract extension is a real endorsement of everyone’s hard work and technical outputs. We are delighted to be continuing this relationship with a much valued customer.”

In December 2014, Babcock Canada handed over HMCS Chicoutimi back to the Royal Canadian Navy following a successful EDWP, the first managed by Babcock Canada through the Victoria In-Service Support Contract (VISSC).

Chicoutimi has subsequently undertaken a highly successful trans pacific deployment and joint operations with the US and Japanese navies. Babcock is currently undertaking HMCS Corner Brook’s EDWP and is in the planning phase for HMCS Victoria.

18 COMMENTS

  1. So right, we really should have kept them. However, onward and upward, let’s see what the forthcoming review has to say. It could be just deadly dull political speak, on the other hand let’s be optimistic and hope that it has been taken seriously.

      • Yes – caused a lot of friction when they realised the state they were in. But, that tells a morality tale on the value of proper maintenance

        • They where offered to Canada as soon as they where built and they faffed around haggling over price and the usual politicing. Hopefully a lesson learned on their side.

  2. It’s a shame we didn’t develop a successor class to these as a cheap way to boost submarine numbers, and use the Type 31s as a cheap way to boost the surface fleet numbers.

    • Not exactly, the MOD and RN put them up as an option for cuts in the 90’s not expecting the Government would actually do it.

  3. A complex issue with much blame to be spread around in the UK and Canada. Canada dragging its heals when these were the only brand new SSK in the world going spare was but one issue. I have written about this elsewhere but here is the key points:

    1) These boats were the first four of an intended twelve to be built in three batches at different yards
    2) All submarines experience defects often major with the early builds in a class. This was no different for the first and eventually only four Upholder built
    3) They never completed their defect rectification period and they were laid up with major defects still to be resolved, they were a very ambitious design with SSN like performance in certain areas
    4) The success of the Oberons, whilst the last was built in 1978 the long and successful service of the Oberon class meant a gap had developed in British design and manufacturing when it came to SSK. In some areas like the Diesel engines that came from the Class 42 HST train the UK had to adapt equipment and systems never used in a Diesel submarine. For logistic and practicality reasons these SSK had high system commonality with the Trafalgar class SSN which had long reaching consequences
    5) They were improperly laid up, rather then lifting them out of the water and flushing out the tanks and pipes to prevent corrosion they were left in the water exposing them to damage including a large knock to one of the hulls
    6) Due to the high commonality with the SSN fleet the RN (foolishly imho) started to Christmas tree them out. When we came to actually selling them to Canada major systems were missing that had to be sourced from retiring SSN or from industry at a cost as they were often out of prouction
    7) The Canadians somehow failed to notice the previous 6 points and purchased four submarines that were in effect prototypes, not stored properly and needing an expensive rebuilt with systems that were either expensive to source or hard to find
    8) Canada then exacerbated the issue by deciding to save money by arming them with early model MK48 they already had in storage. They could have taken late model Tigerfish that were being retired from the RN at the time and compatible with the submarine whilst reviewing a future purchase of Spearfish or MK 48 MOD 7.
    9) To get MK48 to work with Upholder they ripped major parts of the FCS out and replaced it with the hardly cutting edge system fitted to the retiring Oberons. Of course costs skyrocketed and delays were added as this task proved to be highly complex. So complex actually they ended causing damage to the submarines
    10) Eventually they decide to buy the latest MK48 MOD 7 variant anyway and utilise (ironically) components from the removed FCS system reinstalled to get it all working again with the system bodged in
    11) Failing to engage properly with the builders during refit the entire Electrical system of HMCS Victoria was destroyed in 2004 after only four years of service when he submarine was plugged into shore power. HMCS Victoria had to be rebuilt again at great costs and difficulty due to the uniqueness and rarity of these electrical systems. The Canadians were in effect waiting for UK SSN to retire so they could offer up electrical components and systems to repair and refit their own boats
    12) These boats whilst on paper still being very capable units are now orphans as the UK finishes the draw down of the Trafalgar class. They are now going to become exponentially more expensive to maintain as UK industry moves on, in some cases the companies that made those parts don’t even exist any more

    As it stands the Upholder/Victoria class are at best training vessels allowing Canada to keep a tow in the game, considering the farcical state of Canadian defence procurement which makes the UK MOD look like masters in comparison! Even worse if Canada wants to stay in that game they need to be making some decisions soon!

    • Good answer. I hate the simplified accusations from Canada that we sold them shoddy submarines, compeltly ignoring their own mistakes and falirues in the issue.

    • I should point out that my points about the Torpedo choice also have some mitigating factors that should be discussed. There was some logic to retaining MK48 for operation on the Upholder/Victoria class.

      1) When the Canadians were dragging their heals over buying the Upholder class during the 90’s there were significant problems with the Spearfish torpedo to be rectified. Considering the prior development problems with MK24 Tigerfish their reluctance to consider the Spearfish is understandable. Also it would be an expensive weapon system vs the MK48
      2) There was significant built in experience with MK48 within the Canadian Navy, adopting Tigerfish or Spearfish would have required retraining
      3) The MK48 is serviced in Washington State near the Canadian border giving the Canadian Navy significant logistic and cost savings by relying on US logistics. To operate a British Torpedo would require them to come back to the UK for maintenance or a service centre to be set up at great cost in Canada
      4) The Canadians had a significant war stock of MK48 albeit an older MOD 4 model, they were in effect paid for and available. Switching Torpedo would have incurred significant cost (albeit less then they ended up spending imho). You also need to factor in that there were upgrade options to take those MOD 4 torpedo and upgrade them to ADCAP or MOD 7AT

      This is my opinion but this is what I think Canada should have done:

      The Submarines were already purchased under a Lease to purchase agreement, to that end they should have included a limited time Lease agreement for some MK24 MOD2 Tigerfish that didn’t leave UK service until 2004 along with a maintenance agreement with the manufacturer with RN support. The first two Victoria class refitted and delivered to Canada should have retained their standard FCS system and utilised this leased stock of Torpedoes. This would have allowed a simpler and less risky entry to service for the class, remember they didn’t actually fire a MK48 MOD4 until 2012 anyway with all the trouble they had trying to bodge in their own FCS and integrate it with the vessel. In parallel British Industry and Canadian industry should have come to an agreement to update the FCS already fitted to submarines 3 and 4 to work with the MK48 and deliver them with that upgrade. Once they have been delivered and tested the first two get the same upgrade retrofitted back in and the leased Tigerfish are returned home.

      • Excellent posts thanks,certainly answered a lot of questions I had in mind.I wasn’t aware of the 3 batches of 4,from what I can remember when these were built that the shipyard/factory was a new facility built specifically for this class.The imagination in me wonders if a new design of SSK could be built in the UK based on the Astutes in the same way the Upholders owed some design to the Trafalgars.

        • I’m all for a small fleet of ssk too, but I would think redesigning the astute would be too expensive. But we need the high low mix as per with our frigates to get numbers.
          What I would love to know is what the state of play with autonomous subs is. Is the technology there yet to design a large full combat 1-2000 tonne one?
          For me, if there was some money soon for another option, I would buy an ssk design and tweak the design to get us back in the game. Then we start on designs for Astutes successor, but we design a family of subs. I don’t think we are ever going to have a large fleet again so we need to be investing in a smaller autonomous submersible to act as a force multiplier in the same way we plan to use drones with the F35. An SSN with 2-3 Uuavs networked to protect a carrier or task group could be amazingly affective. An Ssk working with a number of Uuavs in the North Sea tracking russian subs could give us huge coverage.
          We also design each platform with an export version (tuned down slightly) and we could get some sales to keep unit costs down. The new astute replacement should use as much from Successor as poss scaled down to save money too.

        • The Astute hull would not be a good basis for an SSK design, far better would be a new hull utilising systems used in the Astute class.

          The only way a new UK SSK design would happen is if the UK Government decides it wants one. The only path to that I can see is if Labour win an election with Corbyn as their leader who would be hell bent on winding up the Nuclear submarine programme. Switching to SSK would be a way to sell the idea but I have a hunch it would not be a popular idea here!

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