Canadian American Strategic Review



CF Projects

Orca Origins


DND 101

Background  —  the Orca Class  ( YAG 300 Replacement )  Project

In July 2001, DND turned its attention to replacing its West Coast YAGs – six 23m training boats that are based at CFB Esquimalt (near Victoria) – and a "YAG 300 (Training Vessel) Replacement" project was begun. In November 2004, Victoria Shipyards were awarded a $69.7M contract –  announced by Esquimalt MP Keith Martin then the Parliamentary Secretary for  National Defence and  the Reserves.

The eight [1] 33m 210 tonne training boats (dubbed the Orca class) were to enter service from mid-2006 until late 2008.  Design was completed in May 2005 and  VicShips began construction in  mid 2005. The first hull  (PCT #55) was completed in August 2006 and officially accepted on 17 Nov. 2006. The eighth and final Orca class (PCT #62 Moose) was ready to be fitted out  on 27 Nov. 2008  –  right on schedule.

A Whale of a Boat? The Orca Class Patrol Craft Training
Like older YAGs, the Orca class' major role will  be training with emphasis on seamanship and  navigational skills.  But, Orcas are considered multi-purpose boats.  The secondary role assigned to the Orca class will be inshore patrol. While Kingston class MCDVs with their 15 knot (28 km/h) top speed are thought to be too slow for patrol, the Orca – powered by twin 1825kW Caterpillar 3516 diesel engines of 69 litres which drive 120cm diameter screws through ZF gearboxes - will hit up to 20 knots (or 37 km/h).  Onboard power will be provided by three gensets  (4 litre, 72 kW Caterpillar 3054 diesel generators).

For training, Orcas will be fitted with Pathfinder NCS 18 X-band navigation radar (this PC-based system easing  transitions from shore-based simulators,  right ), MX420 DGPS (Differential GPS) which makes use of four Canadian Coast Guard DGPS stations on the west coast) and a  'dumb'
(or Anschütz pelorus) compass. Orca's design is restricted by its training role [2] Other than a higher top speed, the sole concession to patrol duties are a bow gun (12.7mm M2 machinegun)

[1] Originally six hulls were planned, later an additional two approved.  Orca class  hull numbers/names are:  PCT 55 Orca, PCT 56 Raven, PCT 57 Caribou, PCT 58 Renard, PCT 59 Wolf, and PCT 60 Grizzly, the two add-on vessels being the PCT 61 Cougar and  PCT 62 Moose.
[2] The Orca is rather broad in the beam. This was determined by the training role. Accommodation was a major factor – three crew cabins (for the crew of four) and three large student cabins (for 16 trainees) were required. Duplicate training stations, etc. also impose additional space and weight requirements. This limits the usefulness of the Orca as a patrol boat. Compared with the US Coast Guard's Island class patrol boat. Both boats are 33m long. Orca's beam will be 8.4m, an Island class' is 6.4m. Orcas will be 10 knots slower and weigh 55t more.