According to the Canadian Department of National Defence, Royal Canadian Navy’s submarines were tied up last year for repairs and maintenance and spent zero days at sea in 2019.
Over the year, HMCS Victoria, HMCS Windsor, HMCS Chicoutimi and HMCS Corner Brook were in various stages of repair and maintenance. They also went into drydock for long-term upgrades meant to ensure the submarines remain operational until the end of the next decade.
It is expected that three of the four would return to service at some point this year.
The boats were docked last year after an intense sailing schedule for two of the four submarines over 2017 and 2018. HMCS Chicoutimi spent 197 days at sea helping to monitor sanctions enforcement off North Korea and visiting Japan as part of a wider engagement in the western Pacific. HMCS Windsor spent 115 days in the water during the same time period, mostly participating in NATO operations in the Atlantic.
Maintaining a submarine fleet is not cheap. Canadian Defence Department figures show the Royal Canadian Navy has invested upward of $325 million in submarine maintenance, repairs and upkeep each year for the last two years.
The Victoria-class submarines are the class of the diesel-electric submarines that are designed and built in the United Kingdom between 1983-1993 to supplement the nuclear submarines served in the Submarine Service of the British Royal Navy.
Originally classified as the Upholder class in the British service, these submarines only served for a short span of time and were decommissioned with the end of the Cold War in 1991. In 1993–94, the Royal Canadian Navy purchased the submarines and a suite of trainers from the Royal Navy to replace their decommissioned Oberon class of submarines in 1998.
Canada’s 2017 defence policy does not envision replacing the subs until 2040, but a written statement recently put before the House of Commons indicates the navy wants to keep the boats “operationally effective until the mid-2030s.”