Canadian Procurement – US FMS Notice – Mk 48 Mod 7 torpedoes – May 2011
Conversion Kits for 36 'new' Canadian Submarine Torpedoes
US Foreign Military Sale Notice
— Proposed Sale to Canada
Update: HMCS Victoria ( SSK 876 ) fired its first Mk 48 torpedo at CFMETR, a CF test
ranges off Nanoose Bay, on 16 Mar 2012. The trial torpedo was instrumented but it was not revealed whether this
'fish' was a Mk 48 Mod 4 or upgraded Mod 7.
Victoria class SSK "always late/First thing you learn is you always have to wait"
Canada's Victoria class submarines have spent most of their time in 'refits' having spent much of
their previous incarnation as British Upholder class in 'open-air' storage. Compounding the SSK's
problems is being an orphan class, meaning no-one stocks parts. But sometimes DND makes its own problems. An FMS
notice for submarine torpedo upgrades is a case in point.
As this FMS notice notes, Canada already has the upgraded Mk 48 Mod 7 torpedo in service. As with the proposed future
upgrades, these torpedoes were created by gutting Canada's existing Mk 48 Mod 4 torpedoes and replacing their systems
with kit components provided by Raytheon. The Mk 48 Mod 4s are hold-overs from the retired Oberon class
SSKs and obsolete by the time Canada bought the Victorias.
An additional wrinkle is that, although the Victorias' torpedo tubes have the same
21-inch diameter, they couldn't fire a Mk 48. Royal Navy subs were armed with a completely different torpedo. So the
question is why didn't DND dump the obsolete Mk 48 Mod 4 in favour of the British Spearfish torpedoes that armed the
Victorias while they were still Upholder class?
The answer is provided in DND's own Backgrounder on the Victoria class, which claims that these subs
"are an important element of Canada’s strategic relationship with the United States." This document goes on to
extoll the benefits of belonging to the "sub club" and participating in global "water space management". In effect,
the Backgrounder says that is that "access to intelligence" would be denied were Canada not a submarine
operator. But does interoperability dictate US torpedoes?
The answer is no. Mk 48 Mod 7s are excellent torpedoes preferred for commonality with its Oberon
predecessors. No question that upgrading existing 'tin fish' is cheaper than buying new. But what about
when the torpedo tube modifications are factored in? Without torpedoes, SSKs cease to be weapons. But why do
we want an SSK at all?
Fortunately, it's not up to DND Backgrounders to rationalize procurement. That is the job of government. When
an Oberon replacement was first suggested, the top priority was an under-ice capability. The Victoria
class could only fit that bill if re- engined with an air-independant propulsion system. But the first
rebuild casualty was funding for a Ballard AIP. So much for procurement priority number one. And priority
number two? Pretty much any concept that is trendy at the time of asking.
The Submarine Capability Life Extension Project of 1998 was supposed to result in Victoria class subs
operational early in 2004. Instead, these SSKs have undergone near-endless refits – HMCS
Victoria, for example, has spent nearly 6 years in dry dock with only a little over 100 days on sea trials.
The Navy blames its government for trying to do everything on the cheap. Perhaps. But contrast with an allied navy
that faced the same challenge. Denmark couldn't meet both plans and budgets. The Danes eliminated submarines and
focused on the surface fleet. The result: a newly revitalized Danish Navy based on rational plans and strict budgets. Doesn't sound much like
Maritime Staff planners or the Canadian Government overseers, does it ?
An edited version of the FMS notice (from the US DSCA) is reproduced below:
Defense Security Cooperation Agency
On the web: http://www.dsca.mil
Media/Public Contact: (703)
Date: March 23, 2011
Transmittal No. 11-06
Canada – 36 MK-48 Mod 7 Advanced Technology (AT) Torpedo Conversion Kits
Washington, March 23, 2011 — The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress March 17 of a possible
[FMS] to the Government of Canada of 36 MK-48 Mod 7 Advanced Technology Torpedo conversion kits and associated
equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of [US] $125 million.
The Government of Canada has requested the sale of 36 MK-48 Mod 7 Advanced Technology torpedo conversion
kits, containers, spare and repair parts, weapon system support & integration, publications and technical documentation,
person- nel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and technical, and logistics
support services, and other related elements of logist- ical support. These kits will upgrade [ Canada's ] existing
MK-48 torpedoes from Mod 4 to Mod 7. The estimated cost is [US] $125 million [ Canadian $122.24 M
The proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the [US] by improving the security
of a NATO ally that has been, and continues to be a key democratic partner of the United States in ensuring peace
Canada intends to use the MK 48 7AT torpedo on their Victoria Class diesel sub- marines... Canada has
significant experience with modern weapon systems, partic- ularly the MK 48 Mod 4/4M and [lightweight] MK 46 5A(S)W
Torpedoes. Canada also has capable infrastructure and experience in maintaining and supporting adv- anced torpedoes.
Canada, which already has the MK 48 Mod 7AT Torpedo in its inventory, will have no difficulty absorbing these
additional conversion kits.
The proposed sale of this equipment will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
The prime contractors for this sale are not known at this time. This sale will be part of a new contractor
competition. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any addit- ional U.S. Government or
contractor representatives to Canada.
There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this pro- posed sale. This
notice of a potential sale is required by law; it does not mean that the sale has been