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COMMENTARY by Martin Shadwick by ...CARRIERS, SEALIFT AND REPLENISHMENTMCS Bonaventure, whose cost-overrun-plagued Department of National Defence – have generated a refit in the late 1960s rendered her an two-tier debate. One tier is centred on the most desirable embarrassing case study in public admin- type of carrier and the other on the wisdom of even istration courses, is enjoying renewed, broaching the carrier option. The former, as noted, has H and unexpected, visibility as some defence been a somewhat muddled affair, and one that would, analysts and political parties promote Canada’s return to the at the very least, benefit from a more thorough exami-carrier business. The Canadian Alliance, for example, nation of Jane’s Fighting Ships. On the latter, somerecommended the acquisition of “at least one dedicated observers, such as Boisvert, have voiced tentative support.helicopter/light carrier” in its Spring 2003 policy paper, He correctly notes, however, that such a capability “must The New North Strong and Free, and noted that Canada be pulled from the needs of Canadian foreign policy, “must consider” a carrier-capable version of the Joint not pushed from the wishful thinking of those...who seeStrike Fighter. It also called for four “support/amphibious Canada as capable of so much more militarily than we ships.” undertake at present.” David T. Jones, a retired diplomat who served as Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs In a variety of fora, ...
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COMMENTARYtin Shadwickby Mar CARRIERS, SEALIFT AND REPLENISHMENT MCSBonaventure, whose cost-overrun-plaguedDepartment of National Defence – have generated a refit in the late 1960s rendered her antwo-tier debate. One tier is centred on the most desirable acnaarlriyestHopilitaclaptreisandrutersehtotnotomprsdanaCaeehC.sTainnadarinesbusnofatioplame,of,xerillAecnanJane’s Fighting Ships. On the latter, some embarrassing case study in public admin-type of carrier and the other on the wisdom of even istration courses, is enjoying renewed,broaching the carrier option. The former, as noted, has and unexpected,visibility as some defencebeen a somewhat muddled affair, and one that would,  atthe very least, benefit from a more thorough exami-recommended the acquisition of “at least one dedicatedobservers, such as Boisvert, have voiced tentative support. helicopter/light carrier” in its Spring 2003 policy paper,He correctly notes, however, that such a capability “must The New North Strong and Free, and noted that Canadabe pulled from the needs of Canadian foreign policy, “must consider” a carrier-capable version of the Jointnot pushed from the wishful thinking of those...who see Strike Fighter. It also called for four “support/amphibiousCanada as capable of so much more militarily than we ships.” undertakeat present.” David T. Jones, a retired diplomat who served as Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs In a variety of fora, including theNational Postthe US embassy in Ottawa from 1992 to 1996, acknowl-, at Major-General (retired) Lewis MacKenzie has advocatededges the “creative thinking” behind the carrier option, a minimum of two, and preferably three, through-but pronounces it “a crazy idea” that would require deck “assault ships” capable of operating VSTOLfighters “adomestic attitudinal transplant reflecting virtually a and helicopters, and of providing sealift for the Army.180-degree reversal of current [Canadian] political views.” In addition to the assault ships, which are integral to his vision of “an elite, light, lethal and strategicallySeemingly forgotten in this ocean of carriers is mobile, balanced combat-capable force,” the MacKenziethe Joint Support Ship (ex-Afloat Logistics and Sealift doctrine would provide Canada’s Navy with “the necessaryCapability ship). Long mooted, the JSS project seeks to replacement resupply ships.” MacKenzie is by far thereplace the two 34-year-old Protecteur-class AORs with highest profile carrier proponent – an ironic twist, giventhree (ideally four) hybrid vessels suitable for underway his army background – but he is not alone.Defence Policysupport to naval forces, sealift, in-theatre support to joint Review, for example, has proposed two amphibious assault(including, but not confined to, a Joint Forceforces ashore carriers and two new Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment (AOR)Headquarters) and other functions (e.g., disaster relief). vessels. Ascurrently envisaged, the JSS would include a roll-on/ roll-off capability, a floodable well dock for landing craft, This burst of enthusiasm for carriers (admittedly,and a significant helicopter capacity. and at times confusingly, in a wide variety of sizes, con-figurations and capabilities) reflects a quest for newThe JSS has been buffeted by the fiscal realities of approaches to Canadian defence policy and force structureCanadian defence and by the technical complexities of a (particularly as we enter a new prime ministerial era).hybrid, and unique-to-Canada, design. It has also had to But it is also rooted in the littoral and force projectioncope with criticism that the compromises inherent in a capabilities demanded by post-Cold War peacekeeping,hybrid – and comparitively large – vessel would jeopardize peace support and combat operations. It is, perhaps, aits efficacy as a replenishment ship. Asuperior approach, Canadian manifestation of the global renaissance ofsuggest critics, would be a replenishment-optimized vessel the carrier, a renaissance by no means confined to tradi-with more sealift capability than the notoriously sealift-tional operators of large carriers. Current exampleschallengedProtecteurandPreserver(i.e., an AOR+ include the SpanishPrincipe de Asturiasa true hybrid), with most sealift needs metrather than and the Italian Garibaldiby commercial charter and/or the acquisition of dedicated, but even more intriguing, and more multi-purpose, areSpain’s forthcoming force projection shipnaval sealift. The Royal Canadian Military Institute has and Italy’s imminentAndrea Doriaadvocated two AORs and four vessels similar to the. Smaller, but still symptomatic of the trend, is Japan’s projected 16 DDH-classUnited Kingdom’s Bay-class Large Auxiliary Landing helicopter carrier.Ships, but finding gainful day-to-day (i.e., non-surge) employment for the latter could prove problematic. Logic The carrier proposals – which, notes Nic Boisvertalso suggests that a procurement programme containing of the Council for Canadian Security in the 21st Century,both AORs and multipurpose, sealift-capable carriers would have developed outside the Canadian Forces and theleave the JSS utterly bereft of a raison d’être, but it is
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Canadian Military JournalAutumn 2003
COMMENTARYtin Shadwickby Mar instructive to note that the Canadian Alliance left the doorIrrespective of the ultimate solution – or solutions – ajar for at least one carrier and – “if judged feasible” – fourto our replenishment, sealift, and other requirements, JSS-like ships.some simple truths must be grasped. First, the existing AORs have given stellar service, but have recognized Clearly no option less capable than the AOR+ shoulddeficiencies and will not last forever. Second, some form be pursued. The notion of a multipurpose, fighter-capableof replenishment ship is pivotal to the survival of the naval carrier is fascinating but, in a country more likely to puttask group structure and would, given the size of the Sea Griffons on a flight deck than Joint Strike Fighters,maritime approaches to Canada, be required even if the it is effectively a non-starter. A more modest multipurposeCanadian Navy was recast in essentially coastal terms. helicopter carrier might be saleable if the Martin govern-Finally, our shipyard options for building even a relatively ment seeksfresh initiatives, but a one-ship-class agendastraightforward AOR+ in Canada have almost disappeared. would raise availability issues and would not, in any event,Time, as usual, is of the essence. obviate the requirement for new AORs. The JSS remains a most intriguing concept and could be well worth pursuingMartin Shadwickteaches Canadian defence policy at York University. if the technical and financial issues associated with aHe is a former editor of Canadian Defence Quarterly. hybrid design can be overcome.
100T HAN N I V E R S A RY
Autumn 2003Canadian Military Journal
Canadian Military Journal extends best wishes to members of the Communications and Electronics Branch on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Signalling Corps on 24 October 1903
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