Defence Procurement – Maritime Defence and Naval Training – June
The Kingston Class: 'Mid-Life' or Move Over for the MCDV?
Reviewing Navy Plans
for the Future of the MCDVs [Part 3]
Stephen Priestley, Researcher, Canadian American Strategic Review
[Ed: We continue the story of the abandoned Kingston class MCDV mid-life refit.
Valérie Dufour, journalist with Le Journal de Montréal, uncovered (through an Access to Information
Request) that the Navy is discarding its $100M mid-life refit plans for the twelve Kingston class MCDVs. Instead, MCDVs will be replaced by new vessels to enter service in
2020. It had been intended to retain the 'mid-lifed' Kingstons until 2045-2055 but, after its review,
planners concluded that, in light of its low performance, the decade-old MCDVs did not warrant a
So, if Maritime Staff don't want a mine countermeasure vessel like the MCDV, what do they want? The MCDV
'mid-life' report mentioned OPV Offshore Patrol Vessels.
Canadian OPVs have come up before. In July 2004, it
became public that planners at DND were examining OPV options for the Canadian Navy. At the time, the OPVs were of
interest for "sovereignty and security missions in coastal waters" for filling a perceived gap
between the MCDVs and much larger Halifax-class frigates. As we
noted at the time, OPV is a rather ambiguous term covering small, sea-worthy patrol boats right up to
lightly-armed and equipped corvette- and frigate-sized warships.
No prizes for guessing which way the Navy planners were leaning – their grand 1991 plan included 18 MCDVs
as well as six new "Patrol Corvettes". The planned corvettes received no political interest at the time.
Nor did these corvettes  get much support from the top brass of the Navy. So, why the interest now? A part of the
answer lies in that vague "OPV" definition.
There is a decided creep in OPV size. One example is the US Coast Guard's "OPC" or Offshore Patrol Cutter now under development.
An OPV by any other definition, it has been suggested that the Canadian Navy should 'coat-tail' on the USCG
OPC project. This planned vessel is a highly-sophisticated ship that will measure 110m long. Frigate-sized OPVs would be even larger (eg: the 122.5m Danish Thetis class).
In other words, Maritime Staff started off wondering whether they should – once again – consider a
"patrol boat" and ended up convincing themselves that they might need to re-invent their Halifax
class frigate (now occupied in alongside the US in the Persian Gulf ). The size creep occurs because of
the weight of all the extra mission equipment we may wish to carry. This is where it all get very silly.
The definition of OPVs may well blur but lightly-equipped is agreed.
"Small is Beautiful" — In Celebration of Trolling
the OPV 'Petites' Rack
There are saner heads. At the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence in 2003, a retired Capt (N),
John Dewar, proposed a more modest, 75m long naval "cutter". ( See Dewar's specifications in
Canada's Coastlines, Appendix XI ). Note that, in the 2003 Senate report, an option to
Dewar's 75m cutter is the USCG's "Offshore Patrol Corvette"[sic] – the same half-again
larger 110m OPC listed above.
Some NDHQ planners have shown unofficial interest in OPV developments in New Zealand. The RNZN's
"Project Protector" rationalized the concepts under- lying coastal patrol. Closer in, a small
fast patrol boat was needed – these were designated "Inshore Patrol Vessel" (IPV, right). The term
'OPV' was reserved for deep-water patrol vessels but even these were small.
The OPV selected by New Zealand is an Australian Tenix design  – related to the Róisín class in Irish service. The OPV for New Zealand will be 85m long, with
a displacement just under 1600t, and top speed of 22kts. Armament details are sketchy but the Irish
Róisín is fitted with a 76mm/62 OTO Melara and the
slightly smaller Eithne class has a 57mm Bofors gun. Both guns
are currently in Canadian service (on Tribals and Halifax , respectively).
Obviously, if the Navy has now become interested in patrolling Canadian waters, a design
similar to the New Zealand OPVs would be well worth considering. Rather than redesigning the Halifax
frigate, this would be a true OPV based on a proven design. If we need frigate to patrol EEZs, we have twelve Halifax patrol frigates, four of which could augment
the true OPVs.
And, if "Small is Beautiful", Whither the Rejected Kingston
It must be noted that the "problem" with the MCDV springs not from any inherent flaws in the design, but
from shifting priorities within the Navy. Until very recently, the Admirals insisted that they did not want the
Navy "reduced to a constubulary role". Now, lest any funds go to the CCG, they are just as certain
that they need an OPV. The MCDV has a number of excellent characteristics but it is no patrol
Is there a future role for the MCDV? If a suitable OPV is procured for the Navy, the MCDVs could find
useful useful employment with the Canadian Coast Guard. The MCDV excels as a sea-bed mapping and
surveillance platform – in part, because its azimuthing propellers give good station-keeping.
There are potential security and marine safety benefits here.
A CCG MCDV might also take some of the pressure off of overworked icebreakers in the summer months. There are
similarities between the MCDV and CCG Offshore Multi-Task Patrol Vessels (coincidentally, one of these –
the 72m CCGS Leonard J. Cowley – is a member of the same OPV family as Róisín and
the new RNZN ships). The compromise MCDV might not be ideal for Coast Guard service either but many of the
Kingston's useful sea-bed work could be continued under the CCG pennant.
The counter-argument is that the CCG would prefer to design its own vessels rather than take hand-me-downs from the
Navy. Certainly the CCG will need to replace its offshore patrol vessels at some point. But any future
de-militarized MCDVs may be more valuable to oceanographic and other research institutes than to the CCG.
What is left uncovered is the MCDV's training role for both Reserves and Regular Navy officers. Perhaps
Maritime Staff thinks that the pending 33m Orca class YAG will be
adequate. It is hard to see how unless the Navy intends to use the new OPV for gunnery training. Multiple roles ...
this is starting to sound like an MCDV again!
 The definition of all warships has begun to slip. Generally speaking, a corvette is an escort ship that
is smaller than a destroyer, a frigate is larger than a destroyer. Both are lightly-armed. Being even more
lightly-armed distinguishes them as OPVs.
 Technically, this OPV is a commerical design originating with Aker Yards (Masa Marine) but it
was also the Tenix submission for the RAN's Armidale competition.