Monday, 11 November 2019

Launching of AOPS #2 and rumoured trials for AOPS #1

(Note: Since writing this, I have received some further input from Colin Darlington at RUSI(NS) which I am using to fix errors and incorporate into this post. All errors remain mine.)

With AOPS #1 (the future HMCS HARRY DEWOLF, AOPV 430) approaching completion and the start of her pre-acceptance trials, AOPS #2 (the future HMCS MARGARET BROOKE, AOPV 431) was rolled onto her launch platform, BoaBarg37, over the weekend at the Halifax Shipyard.

A note on convention: my personal convention here is to capitalize the names of commissioned naval vessels, while italicizing the names of non-commissioned and civilian vessels. While Harry DeWolf as been officially named, she is not yet commissioned. The future HMCS MARGARET BROOKE, on the other hand, has been neither named or commissioned and is likely properly referred to simply as AOPS2. 

With BoaBarge37 in position, the future HMCS MARGARET BROOKE (under the crane boom) sits on the hard at the shipyard, waiting to be backed onto the barge. Harry DeWolf is in the water at right.

AOPS2 was on the barge by 11:00 or so on Saturday.
The semi-submersible BoaBarge37 was then towed out into Bedford Basin, and AOPS2 was lowered into the water beginning early on Sunday morning. The latter was towed and returned to the pier alongside the shipyard during the morning.

AOPS2 (left) and Harry DeWolf (right) alongside at the Halifax Shipyard.

Closeup of AOPS2, the future HMCS MARGARET BROOKE.

Closeup of AOPS2, the future HMCS MARGARET BROOKE.
While the program to build these ships is referred to AOPS (Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship), the ships themselves will be classified as AOPV (Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessel), and it is these latter letters that will be associated with the ship's pennant (or pendant) number (the number that appears painted on the hull of RCN vessels - for example, AOPV 430 for the future HMCS HARRY DEWOLF). The RCN currently uses different hundred-series pennant numbers for each class of ship:

  1. 100 series: Mine Warfare (e.g. 1950s Bay-class, plus Anticosti-class auxiliary minesweeper)
  2. 200 series: Destroyers
  3. 300 series: Frigates
  4. 400 series: Patrol (e.g. Harry DeWolf-class)
  5. 500 series: Replenishment (Support) and Auxiliaries (harbour tugs)
  6. 600 series: Harbour Support (diving tenders, etc.)
  7. 700 series: Coastal Patrol (e.g. Kingston-class MM aka MCDV)
  8. 800 series: Submarines

Cruisers and aircraft carriers (capital ships) have carried numbering under 100 for pennant numbers, as did HMCS LABRADOR. The Oberon class submarines also carried pennant numbers below 100, but would today bear 800-series numbers.

Though pennant numbers are sometimes referred to as "hull numbers", this is incorrect nomenclature for the RCN - as their hulls themselves are not numbered. The USN, by contrast, does use hull numbers - for instance, USS ARLEIGH BURKE (DDG-51), is indeed the 51st guided-missile destroyer (DDG) commissioned into the US Navy.

Closeup of HARRY DEWOLF.
Rumour has it that Harry DeWolf will soon begin trials. I am told by the folks at RUSI(NS) that trials for Royal Canadian Navy vessels now consist of Pre-Acceptance and Post-Acceptance trials.  Personally, while these may be correct, I find this to be somewhat less than specific without further component definitions. 

I should preface these following comments by stating that I have no inside knowledge whatsoever on the trials and acceptance process. 

I am assuming that Pre-Acceptance trials consist of both "Builder's Trials" (trials carried out by the shipyard to confirm all systems are operational and identifying deficiencies that need to be rectified in this and future ships) and "Acceptance Trials" (carried out under the supervision of the Owner to confirm the ship meets the agreed Statement of Requirements (SOR) to which the shipyard was contracted to build the ship to). If the "Acceptance Trials" are successful and the ship is judged to be compliant with the SOR with remaining defects numbering few to none, then presumably the ship is accepted  by the owner (i.e. the owner takes possession).

Post-Acceptance trials, I assume, would consist of operational trials undertaken by the Navy to train the crew, confirm (or write) operational procedures, and ensure the ship (as designed) can accomplish the missions intended for her. It is possible for a ship to entirely meet the Statement of Requirements laid down in the contract and yet still fail to be able to undertake her stated mission - in this case, it can be assumed that the Statement of Requirements itself is deficient.

Somewhere in the latter stages of this process, the ship needs to be commissioned before she can be referred to as Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) - hence the "future HMCS MARGARET BROOKE" nomenclature.

I look forward to seeing these ships underway in Halifax Harbour in the near future.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

HMCS KOOTENAY gearbox explosion 50th anniversary ceremony

To commemorate 50 years since the gearbox explosion in HMCS KOOTENAY that killed 9 and wounded 53, a ceremony was held at the HMCS BONAVENTURE Anchor Memorial in Point Pleasant Park on October 23rd. 

I have written on this incident both online (here) and an expanded two-piece article (with additional content from a survivor interview) in the September and October issues of Warships IFR Magazine.

Photos of the ceremony can be found on my Smugmug website.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

M.V. Asterix tour

I wrote the photo captions in this post in early 2018 after touring the ship and attending the "Welcome to the Fleet" ceremony, but self-embargoed it to avoid scooping my own article in Warships IFR magazine - and then promptly forgot about it. So here it is, with some new text, a year-and-a-half or so later.... 

MV Asterix, the new Interim Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment (iAOR) that the Royal Canadian Navy has leased from Federal Fleet Services (FFS), successfully completed her trials during the winter and was formally accepted by the RCN. She has since departed Halifax for the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise.  

Asterix underway in the company of two HALIFAX class frigates. Photo: Jeremy Citone, Chantier Davie.

Asterix refuelling HMCS TORONTO during acceptance trials in January 2018. Photo: Jeremy Citone, Chantier Davie.

Prior to her departure, FFS was kind enough to invite me to the "Welcome to the Fleet" ceremony in early March, and also to allow me to revisit the ship in April. This allowed me to photograph much of the ship and assemble a photographic tour of many of the interior spaces.

RCN personnel line the rail prior to the "Welcome to the Fleet" ceremony.
Where Asterix is being leased from FFS (a first for the RCN), and will not be commissioned into the Navy, the "Welcome to the Fleet" ceremony was somewhat unprecedented. Until recently, the RCN owned and operated its own AOR fleet, which were commissioned (hence the HMCS moniker) and were crewed entirely by the Navy (if you ignore the RCAF contingent carried when helicopters were onboard). As a civilian owned ship, Asterix is captained by a civilian master and crewed by civilian crews (which rotate on and off the ship) with a military contingent who handle refueling duties and other traditionally military tasks, including operation of the minimal self defence weaponry.

I would be interested to know how this compares to the USNS and RFA ships of the United States and Royal Navies, both civilian manned ships of their respective navies, in particular with how they would operate in a war zone.

The "Welcome to the Fleet" ceremony was held in the port hangar, with a reception held later in the starboard hangar.

The ship incorporates two large helicopter hangars into the aft end of the superstructure.

As a civilian-owned vessel operating in the service of the RCN, Asterix will be permitted to fly the Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel (CFAV) jack. Photo: Sandy McClearn. 

As a civilian-owned vessel operating in the service of the RCN, Asterix will be permitted to fly the Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel (CFAV) jack. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Bridge crews serving in other RCN vessels are quite jealous of the elbow room afforded on the bridge of Asterix.

Asterix's large, modern, bridge. Photo: Sandy McClearn. 

The Integrated Tactical and Navigation Station on the bridge. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Asterix's large, modern, bridge. Photo: Sandy McClearn.
The passageways in the ship are similarly luxurious where space is concerned.

Wide passageways are colour-coded by deck for easier wayfinding. The ship is also fitted with several elevators for both materials and crew. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

In addition to copious storage, each accommodation cabin is fitted with its own shower, toilet, television, internet, and individual thermostat. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

I think it is safe to say that the ship's kitchen, cafeteria, and servery are unprecedented in the history of the RCN. Indeed, the crew amenities in general are unprecedented in the RCN.

Cafeteria servery. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Cafeteria servery. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

A large, brightly lit, cafeteria can easily feed the entire crew. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

A large, brightly lit, cafeteria can easily feed the entire crew. A touch-screen is provided near the exit to allow the crew to rate each meal. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Lounges include internet stations for the crew to keep in contact with family and the outside world.

Multiple lounges are provided for the crew. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Asterix incorporates a dedicated reception lounge, whose function includes providing hospitality to visiting family members of the crew. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

In addition to replenishing the fleet, Asterix incorporates a number of features that will allow her to be used for Humanitarian Aid / Disaster Response (HADR) missions - one such feature is her large and capable galley.

A large kitchen can produce 500 cooked meals per hour, a bonus for HADR missions. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

A large kitchen can produce 500 cooked meals per hour, a bonus for HADR missions. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

A large kitchen can produce 500 cooked meals per hour, a bonus for HADR missions. Photo: Sandy McClearn.
In the HALIFAX class frigates, fitness equipment is shoehorned into whatever available space exists, and sailors have the option of running circles around the flight deck when the ship isn't at Flying Stations. Asterix, on the other hand, has a large dedicated gym.

A large and well equipped gym runs the full width of the superstructure. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

A large and well equipped gym runs the full width of the superstructure. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

A large and well equipped gym runs the full width of the superstructure. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Asterix also features a full hospital with a trauma surgery and dental suite, another feature of the ship intended to support HADR missions.

Asterix's full hospital includes a dental suite. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Asterix's full hospital includes a medical ward. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Asterix's full hospital includes a trauma surgery. Photo: Sandy McClearn.
Asterix is as impressive on the outside as she is on the inside.

The view from atop the bridge provides a clear sense of perspective and shows how much bigger Asterix is compared to her surface combatant fleet mates. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

HMCS MONTREAL alongside for a fuel transfer. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Currently fitted with mountings for .50 calibre machine guns, the two aft corners of the superstructure can also accommodate, if desired, the RCN's Phalanx 20mm CIWS. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Asterix's large helicopter deck can land a CH-147F Chinook, and the twin hangars can each accommodate a CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Asterix has two hangars, each capable of accommodating a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

As with previous RCN supply vessels, the NATO compliant replenishment-at-sea system was designed and built in Canada. Photo: Sandy McClearn. 

In addition to two RAS observation positions on the superstructure, the RAS control cab on the forward deck is fitted with four individual control stations, one for each RAS station. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Asterix boasts the tallest superstructure to ever serve in the RCN. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Two large knuckle-boom cranes at the bow can lift between 15 and 30 tonnes, depending on the boom configuration. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Asterix arriving in Halifax for the first time in December 2017. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Asterix returning to Halifax from sea trials at sunrise. Photo: Sandy McClearn.
Asterix taking on fuel from bunkering tanker Algoma Dartmouth.

Asterix returning to Halifax from sea trials at sunrise. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Asterix alongside in HMC Dockyard, Halifax. Photo: Sandy McClearn.

Size comparison between Asterix and HMCS TORONTO alongside in HMC Dockyard.

One of Asterix's 15t/30t knuckle-boom cranes in use.

 Asterix carries three boats per side, including a fully enclosed lifeboat and two smaller craft.

Asterix has been fitted with a new retractable bow thruster to allow her to maneuver in confined spaces without tugs.

The bottom line is that I found Asterix to be an impressive ship. With only two new purpose-built replenishment vessels slated to be built under the government's shipbuilding strategy, I personally think it would be a shame not to keep Asterix after the 5-year lease is complete. Naval ships are constantly rotating in and out of refit and maintenance cycles, and a third ship is necessary to mitigate the risk of a ship not being available when the Navy needs it most. And Asterix, with her HADR features and NATO conforming number of refueling stations (the latter of which the new ships scheduled to be built on the West Coast will not have), just seems too useful not to keep in service.