Canada is finally moving ahead on building a fleet of Arctic patrol ships to provide a naval presence in the resource-rich north.
But the CAN $3.5 billion project (US $3.2 billion), helmed by Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax with Lockheed Martin handling onboard combat systems, will produce only five ships with limited military capabilities, defense analysts and politicians warn.
The cost of the project to build the Arctic offshore patrol ships has also increased from $3.1 billion to $3.5 billion, government officials confirmed on Jan. 16.
The official contract announcement with government and company representatives was held Jan. 23.
The ships were originally announced in 2007 by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and were supposed to be in the water by 2013. At the time, Harper said that up to eight ships would be built.
Under the new deal, construction of the five vessels will begin in September, said Kevin McCoy, president of Irving Shipbuilding. The first ship will be ready by 2018. The last ship will be delivered by 2022, he said.
Royal Canadian Navy commander Vice Adm. Mark Norman has said the Arctic patrol ships will give the service greater reach into the remote region. “The Arctic offshore patrol ships will enable us to become a truly Arctic, rather than just northern, Navy with the capability to operate in the Canadian Arctic archipelago on a sustained and persistent basis,” he told delegates to a naval conference here in October.