Frigates prepare for new and future dangers

Warships undergo multi-million-dollar ‘makeover’

Lt.-Cmdr. Robin Moll

Lt.-Cmdr. Robin Moll

The first of five navy warships at CFB Esquimalt is about to receive a makeover that will make it an even stronger force to reckon with on the high seas.

HMCS Calgary is now out of operational commission and most of its 225 crew members have been posted to other ships.

Despite the change in its operational tempo, activity on board the frigate is heating up as 60 crew members help base civilian workers ready the ship for an 18-month transformation.

“It’s exciting looking forward to the future,” said Lieut. (N) Dale St. Croix, second in command of Calgary. “You know at the end it’s going to be better.”

Beginning in June, the patrol frigate will be outfitted with new sensors, control and command systems, radar capability, electronic warfare systems and upgraded communications and missiles – technology that will make it a leader in snuffing out evolving domestic and foreign threats, such as piracy and terrorism.

The modernization and refit is part of a $3.1-billion program that will ensure 12 Canadian frigates reach the end of their projected life in 2030, and improve the operational capabilities of five naval vessels on the West Coast and seven in the east.

The project represents a boon to Lockheed Martin Canada, recipient of a $2-billion contract to modernize all frigate combat systems and maintain them over the long term.

Victoria Shipyards received the $351-million contract for the ongoing maintenance and repair of the vessels at CFB Esquimalt, expected to create up to 112 local jobs and help maintain 450 more.

In the past 15 years, the vessels have patrolled Canadian coastlines and travelled the world responding to distress calls and tackling illegal fishing and polluters, terrorism, piracy and human and drug smuggling.

But this project will ensure the ships, designed in the late 1970s and early 1980s with Cold War missions in mind, will not only keep up with new and present dangers, but lead the charge.

“We’re breaking new ground,” St. Croix said. “We haven’t done a project like this before.”

emccracken@vicnews.com