Mark Collins – Canadian Surface Combatant: Not Exactly Steady as She Goes

In fact the CSC project seems rather a muddle–how likely it will proceed with any smoothness? But at least it appears foreign designs might be considered (see end of this post). Keep in mind this will be the most expensive CF acquisition ever, dwarfing the F-35, er, national fighter–scroll down here. Excerpts from an article at Vanguard magazine:

Unanswered questions about the Canadian Surface Combatant

The Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) is a key project of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) and is intended to provide Canada with modern replacements for the Royal Canadian Navy’s existing fleet of destroyers and frigates. CSC is currently at the earliest stages of project definition. By 2016, the RCN anticipates working toward finalizing the design of CSC and delivering its first of 15 vessels by 2022 [good luck and will 15 be affordable?].

So it was with some anticipation and enthusiasm that 300 industry participants and government principals met in Ottawa in mid November for the first formal industrial engagement for the CSC program, to review critical components and seek industry input.

Considered by many to be a success, the workshop provided an information baseline and a view into the level of cooperation between the various departments. The day exposed both the strengths and current challenges the RCN and Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) face in their quest for new ships in a changing procurement environment…

This initial industry engagement was one of two parts of PWGSC’s early engagement plan. The event was also twinned with a letter of interest (LOI) requesting feedback from interested companies, and invited industrial suppliers to evaluate and rate five possible procurement strategies based on their effectiveness to deliver the CSC…

It remains to be seen whether this will be a competition between new warship designs – with all the implications of risk that entails – or a competition between military off-the-shelf (MOTS) designs that will leverage efficiencies and MOTS designs with Canadian modifications. There is also a question of how much and what equipment will be designated as either portable/transferable or government furnished, potentially narrowing or limiting the competition…

The exercise has already exposed one challenge due to the lack of clarity around who will be the prime contractor in building the CSC. The most commonly expected procurement strategy – and one of the five outlined by the Crown in the LOI – is a funded dual design option: a competitive procurement resulting in the selection of two teams. The teams would be contracted to develop costed preliminary designs for evaluation. One of these teams, and its design, would then be selected for implementation.

The implication here is that the winning team would be designated as the prime contractor. The request for costed preliminary designs also implies that cost will be a factor in the final selection, unlike the selection of the shipyard, where final cost of the ship was not a criterion [emphasis added, lovely way to conduct procurement]…

In the absence of a clear strategic vision for the RCN, which has yet to refresh its strategic position paper [see: “So What States Might the RCN Fight?“], and without navy direction on equipment and key capabilities – and how they’ll be evaluated – as well as who is prime, it will be difficult for industry to shape a best value discussion with one coherent voice. Instead, competitors will end up grouped and pitted against each other, each providing responses based on how they see best value in their own favour.

To some, best value will mean leveraging as much existing capability as possible, “saving” money by re-using what’s already been paid for. To others, best value will mean maximizing the number of ships for the budget. Some will claim it is the full life cost of the ship, from cradle to grave. Offshore shipbuilders will raise the importance of off-the-shelf and lowering risk, while past and current suppliers to the RCN will point to investments already made in Canada…

Louise Mercier [more here and here] is a senior defence procurement associate with Hill & Knowlton [more here].


Australia/UK Defence Treaty Includes Possible Ship Design Cooperation

Military Equipment Costs, UK Section

RCN and Foreign Surface Combatants

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute

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3 responses to “Mark Collins – Canadian Surface Combatant: Not Exactly Steady as She Goes

  1. Official sites:

    “Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) Project”
    (No, not that PMO!)

    “Industrial and Regional Benefits: Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC)”
    (Everything “To be determined”, that tells a tale.)

    “National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS)”

    Mark Collins

  2. And keep this in mind in terms of “strategic vision” and the RCN:

    “Why a one-for-one replacement of the old RCN ships–acquired with Soviet subs in the North Atlantic in mind during the Cold War–when that strategic world is long gone? Is the RCN now, with government support, thinking of a Pacific pivot with China as the envisaged adversary? Or something else specific and substantive with direct relevance to Canadian national interests, treaty obligations, or…?

    Put another way, what are the policy and operational concepts that dictate the RCN needs 15 high-end surface warships? This gov’t (and any other likely one) seems unable to think in such terms. Remember the Royal Navy itself is coming down to only 19 frigate/destroyer-class ships:–2

    Mark Collins

  3. Indeed, does the RCN need all those frigate-class ships? Might not offshore patrol vessel type ships do for much of the hulls needed for a sensible (non-Arctic)
    “strategic vision”? See the end part of this post:

    “No More (Big) War?”

    There is also the question of the capability of Irving, Halifax, to build either the Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships or CSCs in any timely or cost-effective manner:

    “RCN and National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy: Irving up to it?”

    As one keeps saying, “Good luck!”

    Mark Collins

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