Canadian Forces Maritime Command

From Academic Kids

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Canadian Naval Jack

Canadian Forces Maritime Command (MARCOM) is responsible for naval operations of the Canadian Armed Forces. MARCOM maintains fleets on the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, these being Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT) and Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) respectively.

MARCOM is the descendant of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), which was the name of Canada's naval service until 1 February 1968. Maritime Command is currently headquartered in Ottawa, with MARLANTHQ located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, MARPACHQ located in Esquimalt, British Columbia, and Naval Reserve Headquarters in Quebec City, Quebec.

MARCOM receives all air support including ship-embarked helicopters from the 1st Canadian Air Division, headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The Maritime Commander is a vice-admiral, with rear-admirals as coastal commanders, and a commodore commanding the Naval Reserve.


Canadian Forces Naval Bases and Training Centres

Maritime Forces Atlantic (MARLANT)

  • CFB Halifax
    • HMC Dockyard
    • HMCS Trinity
      • Naval Radio Station Newport Corner
      • Naval Radio Station Mill Cove
    • Canadian Forces Naval Engineering School (CFNES)
      • Damage Control Division (Kootenay)
    • Canadian Forces Naval Operations School (CFNOS)
    • Canadian Forces Maritime Warfare Centre (CFMWC)
    • Stadacona
    • Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot Bedford

Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC)

Naval Reserves

Naval Reserve Divisions

See stone frigate for the origin of the Commonwealth tradition of naming naval shore establishments as if they were actual ships.

British Columbia
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
Prince Edward Island
Newfoundland and Labrador

History Since Military's Unification

Following unification on 1 February 1968, MARCOM undertook several changes to its force structure. The navy's sole aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure was nearing the end of its service life, being a World War II-era vessel. In the early 1970s, it was decided to pay the Bonny off and not find a replacement, instead focusing on the traditional blue-water navy.

Tribal-Class Destroyers and Halifax-Class Frigates

The fleet was enhanced in 1972 with the addition of the four new Tribal-class destroyer-helicopter (DDH) vessels, also known as the Iroquois class. By the mid-1970s, the navy was looking at an entire new class of frigate-helicopter (FH) vessels to replace the aging Saguenay, Restigouche, and Mackenzie classes. This design evolved into the Canadian Patrol Frigate (CPF), which was promised by the government in the early 1980s during a period of increased military spending. By the late 1980s, with construction of the first six vessels underway (by now called the Halifax class), construction of six further vessels was announced. Nine of the twelve CPF vessels were built at Saint John, New Brunswick; and the remaining three were built at Lauzon, Quebec.

Tribal Update and Modernization Program (TRUMP)

The mid-1980s also saw the announcement of the Tribal Update and Modernization Program, which saw the four early-1970s Tribal destroyers updated into area-defence destroyers. The TRUMP update saw these vessels become the first non-US ships to carry the Standard Arm antiaircraft missile.

Nuclear-Powered Attack Submarines (SSN)

The White Paper on Defence of 1987 also highlighted Canada's abysmal capabilities of enforcing sovereignty on its Arctic coast. In this policy paper, it was announced that MARCOM would receive a fleet of 8-12 nuclear-powered attack submarines suitable for operating extended periods of time under the Arctic ice fields. The proposed SSN fleet would force any nation, friend or foe, to possibly think twice before using Canada's territorial seas in the Arctic for operating nuclear submarines. During 1987-1988, MARCOM examined several British and French SSN designs. The planned procurement, however, was cancelled in 1988-1989 during a time of increased defence cuts.

Gulf War

MARCOM hurriedly modernized and deployed HMCS Terra Nova--a Restigouche-class destroyer escort--HMCS Athabaskan, and the supply ship HMCS Protecteur to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Desert Shield and later Operation Desert Storm, where these vessels were involved in escort duties of various coalition naval forces and non-combatants.

Kingston-Class Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels (MCDV)

In the mid-1990s, the patrol-frigate program was winding down, and most of the Restigouche, Saguenay, and Mackenzie-class vessels were retired. Additional new vessels were entering service, as the Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel program began delivering the new Kingston-class minesweeper and coastal-patrol vessels that were designed to be crewed by reservists from MARCOM's various naval-reserve divisions across the country.

Victoria-Class Submarines

In 1998, the Canadian government made a deal with the United Kingdom to acquire four mothballed, but state-of-the-art Upholder-class diesel-electric submarines that were made surplus by the Royal Navy's decision to consolidate its submarine forces on the Trafalgar-class nuclear boats. The Upholders were considered too valuable and technologically advanced by the Royal and US navies to allow them to fall into the hands of a non-allied nation. Therefore Canada was encouraged (through significant discounts) to acquire the Upholders. The four submarines were eventually purchased, after much foot-dragging by the federal government, for $750 million CAD.

The transaction was supposed to have included some reciprocal rights for British forces to continue using CFB Suffield for armoured-unit training and CFB Goose Bay for low-level flight training, while Canada received four well-built and very lightly used high-technology diesel submarines to replace the 1960s-era Oberon class. (It was later revealed that there were no reciprocal rights. It was a plain lease-to-buy arrangement.) After a costly update program which took longer than expected, along with several public and highly embarrassing equipment failures, the Upholders are being successfully reactivated following a decade of mothballing and are now being integrated into the Canadian navy as the Victoria class. Part of this deal will see MARPAC receive its first submarine in four decades and returning an active submarine presence to Canada's west coast.

The four submarines (and their Royal Navy names):

NOTE: A naval investigation was conducted into a fatal fire aboard HMCS Chicoutimi which killed a sailor and injured several others during its maiden voyage from Faslane Naval Base, Scotland, to Halifax in October 2004. The investigation focused on two hatches that were left open during repairs, thus allowing seawater inside while the submarine was on the surface in a period of rough weather, as well as faulty insulation for wires and a panel near the commanding officer's cabin. The other three Victoria-class boats were placed on restricted duty for several weeks following the fire and during the period of investigation.

The investigation found that a series of unexpected circumstances led to the tragedy. No blame was placed on the commanding officer, as it was decided he was reasonable in allowing both hatches to be left open for the repairs. Running with both hatches open was common on the Oberon-class boats. Recommendations include improved water-resistant insulation for electrical wires, improved firefighting training, and a change of operational procedures that will no longer allow a submarine to operate on the surface with both hatches open. The widow of the officer killed, in writing, accepted the findings of the investigation.

Maritime-Helicopter Replacement

Although aviation assets are the responsibility of Canadian Forces Air Command (AIRCOM) since unification, the political fiasco surrounding the maritime-helicopter replacement has had a major impact on the ability of the Canadian patrol frigates to deliver their expected capabilities. In 1993, the Maritime Helicopter Program, which had selected the EH-101 Merlin as a replacement for the aging CH-124 Sea King, was cancelled by incoming Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in an infamous decision that dogged his government for over a decade. Chrétien's government did end up ordering fifteen CH-149 Cormorants, a slightly cheaper version of the Merlin, for search-and-rescue services, however it took until July 2004 for a replacement of the now-ancient Sea Kings to be announced. The Sea Kings will be replaced with the Sikorsky S-92, with delivery expected to be completed by 2008-2010.

Supply-Ship Replacement and Future Programs

In the late 1990s, one of the fleet's three underway-replenishment vessels, HMCS Provider, was paid off. The remaining two supply ships, HMCS Preserver and HMCS Protecteur, were showing their age, and MARCOM began studies into designing a new class of underway-replenishment and naval sealift-capable vessels.

On 16 April 2004, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced plans to purchase three new joint-support ships to replace the Protecteur-class underway-replenishment ships. In addition to supporting naval operations, the new ships will be able to transport an army battle group--a capability Canada's navy has lacked since the departure of the light carrier HMCS Magnificent in the late 1950s when she was used as a transport during the Suez Crisis.

In the first months of 2005, senior members of the Canadian Forces and the government have been discussing the possibility of purchasing new or used amphibious-assault vessels. This is apparently not connected to the joint-support vessel announcement of 2004.

Canada is also considering a 6-10 vessel replacement program for the Tribal-class destroyers, possibly involving the use of the US-developed AEGIS radar system. There are also ongoing discussions about designing warships suitable for ice operations off Canada's Arctic coast.

Current Status

As of 2004, MARCOM operates a fleet of about thirty surface ships and four submarines:

On 8 November 2004, a contract was awarded to build six training-and-patrol vessels of three hundred tons displacement to be called the Orca class.

See Also

External Links


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